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No winning streak lasts forever, particularly in Hollywood.
Late on the evening of Nov. 5, Marvel Studios and Disney executives received word that Eternals had been slapped with a B CinemaScore by audiences, the lowest grade of any film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe pantheon, which now boasts 26 titles. Every other MCU title save for Thor, which received a B+ more than a decade ago, toward the beginning of Marvel’s renaissance, has earned some variation of an A — an enviable feat.
The lackluster audience grade, combined with the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score in the history of the MCU, left many box office pundits wondering whether Eternals could cross $70 million in its domestic opening, much less the $75 million Disney and Marvel had hoped for.
It did. The movie opened to an estimated $71 million in North America. (Disney insiders were clearly relieved since poor word-of-mouth can derail a film from Friday to Saturday in the age of social media.)
Helping the mood, Eternals overperformed overseas, where it debuted to $90.7 million for a global start of $161.7 million, the second-biggest global launch of the pandemic era behind Universal’s F9 ($163 million). That excludes China and Russia, where there are once again cinema closures due to outbreaks of COVID-19.
Industry sources say no company or studio can hit the bullseye with audiences every time, not even Marvel. The characters in Eternals aren’t well known to the casual fan, hence the execution of the story was even more important.
“Marketing hype plus the excitement of die-hard fans were the building blocks of the strong debut that Eternals enjoyed this weekend. However, it’s the one-two punch of great word-of-mouth and strong critical reviews that will be key to the film’s long-term playability in theaters and thus determine its ultimate fate in cinemas around the globe,” says Comscore’s Paul Dergarabedian.
“Of course, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that the usual rules generally don’t apply to Marvel, so it will be interesting to see how Eternals plays over the coming weeks with a very competitive slate of films on the horizon that will in real time provide a box office stress test for the film,” Dergarabedian adds.
Eternals‘ domestic start is among the lowest of any of the 26 titles in the MCU — the last film to open to less was Ant-Man in 2015 ($57.2 million) — and lower than the two other Marvel/Disney movies released during the COVID-19 pandemic, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Black Widow.
Directed by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Chloé Zhao, Eternals stars a diverse ensemble cast including Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie.
The movie boasts a hefty running time of 157 minutes. Outside of Avengers: Endgame, Eternals is the longest MCU title.
EntTelligence chief strategy officer and partner Steve Buck, whose firm polls moviegoers, says Eternals pulled in 5.4 million people domestically, an impressive stat considering the running time, and underscores the respect Marvel enjoys. “Fans of the beloved franchise showed their loyalty to the MCU and to the theatrical experience as a whole,” says Buck.
But loyalty shouldn’t be confused with offering a critical opinion, evidenced by the B CinemaScore (in the parlance of CinemaScore, a B is more like a C).
According to the Las Vegas-based company, below are the CinemaScores for the 26 MCU titles, ranked by grade:
Iron Man 2
Iron Man 3
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Guardians of the Galaxy
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Captain America: Civil War
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Avengers: Infinity War
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
The Incredible Hulk
Captain America: The First Avenger
Thor: The Dark World
Ant-Man and the Wasp
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