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Chloé Zhao’s Eternals battled its way to a $71 million debut from 4,090 theaters in North America — the low end of expectations — but fared better overseas for a worldwide start of $161.7 million, the second-biggest global opening of the pandemic era.
Eternals‘ domestic start is among the lowest of any of the 26 titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — 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.
The good news for Marvel Studios and Disney: Plenty of loyal fans still came out, and Eternals was able to make it past the $70 million mark (some analysts had it launching to $67 million).
And numbers were robust internationally, where the superhero offering opened to a better-than-expected $90.7 million from 46 material markets — excluding China and Russia, where a COVID surge has prompted another round of cinema closures.
Eternals opened No. 1 everywhere except for India. South Korea — where it scored the top opening of the pandemic era for a Western film — led with $14.1 million, followed by the U.K. ($7.1 million), France $6.7 million, Mexico ($5.7 million) and Australia ($5 million). Disney estimates that in like-for-like markets, Zhao’s film is pacing 76 percent ahead of Shang-Chi and 26 percent ahead of Black Widow.
Heading into the weekend, Disney and Marvel Studios were hopeful that Eternals would hit $75 million in North America.
At the end of the summer, Shang-Chi opened to a dazzling $94.7 million domestically over the four-day Labor Day weekend, including $75.4 million for the three days Friday-Sunday. Black Widow opened to $80.4 million in late spring even though it was also available in the home via Disney+ Premier Access.
Eternals received a B CinemaScore. The previous lowest was the first Thor (B+), while the rest have earned a variation of an A. Similar to the CinemaScore grade, Eternals presently has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score — 49 percent — of any MCU offering.
Eternals is the third entry in Marvel’s Phase Four. The film 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.
Elsewhere at the box office, Pablo Larrain’s specialty film Spencer — starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana — started off with a subdued $2.1 million from 996 theaters, underscoring the challenges facing adult-skewing dramas in the COVID-19 era. Surveys have repeatedly found that moviegoers over 45, and even over 35, are more reluctant to return to cinemas.
Neon is nonetheless hopeful that Spencer, coming in No. 8, will have long legs throughout awards season (Stewart is expected to have a shot at a best actress Oscar nomination).
One title that is providing a major boost for the specialty market is Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, which saw zero decline from last weekend. The Searchlight Pictures film grossed $2.6 million from 996 locations in its third outing, for a domestic total of $8.5 million. Overseas, it has grossed $11.1 million from its first 16 material markets.
Among mainstream offerings, Dune placed No. 2 domestically with $7.6 million in its third weekend for a domestic total of $83.9 million. Internationally, it finished Sunday with $246.5 million for a global cume of $338.4 million.
James Bond installment No Time to Die crossed the $500 million milestone overseas to finish the weekend with $524.3 million internationally and $667.1 million worldwide (its domestic tally is $142.8 million). It placed No. 3 domestically in its fifth weekend.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage came in No. 4 with $4.5 million for a domestic total of $197 million and $424.6 million worldwide.
Hollywood tentpole Red Notice was also a player on the marquee this weekend, but no one knows what it officially grossed since Netflix doesn’t report box office grosses. The action-comedy — featuring three of the world’s biggest movie stars in Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot — debuted in roughly 750 theaters across the U.S. a week ahead of its launch on Netflix. Some with access to numbers say Red Notice may not have earned much more than $1.3 million, a dismal number in any normal circumstances.
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