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In a stunning boost for theatrical, Venom: Let There Be Carnage opened to $90.1 million at the domestic box office, the biggest three-day launch of the pandemic era, fueling the biggest weekend overall since COVID-19 shut down theaters in March 2020.
For the first time during the crisis, domestic box office revenues came in less than 15 percent behind the same weekend in 2019. On the same weekend two years ago, superhero sensation Joker opened to $96.2 million. Venom 2 marks the second-best October launch of all time behind that film, indicating that moviegoing returned to some semblance of normal over the weekend.
“With apologies to Mr. Twain: The death of movies has been greatly exaggerated,” Sony film chief Tom Rothman said in a statement.
Venom 2, made by Sony in association with Marvel Studios, came in $25 million to $30 million ahead of expectations to become the first sequel of the pandemic era to clock in ahead of the first film in a particular series (Venom opened to $80.3 million in 2018.)
The follow-up was released exclusively in cinemas versus going out simultaneously on premium VOD or a streaming service.
The news gets even better for Hollywood and theaters. Cinemark, one of the country’s three largest chains, enjoyed its biggest October opening weekend in history, as well as its biggest October weekend overall. The chain is also reporting that this could go down as the second-biggest October weekend of all time for the entire industry.
“This is another strong example that people want and need to get out of their homes for an immersive entertainment experience,” Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi said in a statement.
Black Widow was the previous record holder for best three-day opening of the pandemic era with nearly $81 million.
Over Labor Day, Marvel and Disney’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings set a new pandemic-era benchmark when opening to $94.7 million over the four-day Labor Day frame. It earned $75.4 million over the first three days of that long weekend.
The Sony event pic kicks off a busy month that looks more like summer than a regular October as studios bank on consumers becoming more and more comfortable returning to theaters. The surge at the box office is good news for the long-delayed latest James Bond installment, No Time to Die, which opens in the U.S. and Canada on Oct. 8. This weekend, the 25th Bond movie raced to a better-than-expected foreign launch of nearly $120 million, the best showing of the pandemic era without China.
Venom 2 also made headlines in its first foreign market — Russia — when opening to $13.8 million. It is Sony’s biggest opening of all time in that market and the best of any film during the pandemic.
A staggering 23 percent of Venom 2′s earnings came from Imax and other premium large-format venues, a sign that consumers are willing to dole out extra money for an upgraded experience. Imax had a huge weekend overall, between Venom 2, Bond pic No Time to Die and Dune.
Andy Serkis directs the Tom Hardy-starring Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The film, also made in association with Tencent Pictures, co-stars Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Reid Scott and Naomie Harris, the latter as the comic book villain Shriek.
In August, Sony pushed Venom 2 from Sept. 24 to Oct. 15 amid uncertainty over theatergoing and the delta variant. But when Shang-Chi did so well, the studio relocated Venom 2 to Oct. 1. The move paid off.
Venom 2 wasn’t the only new title igniting moviegoing.
MGM and Bron Creative’s The Addams Family 2 , distributed by United Artists Releasing, scored the biggest domestic opening of the COVID era for an animated family film with $18 million, despite also being available via premium on-demand in the U.S. and Canada. The dual-release strategy was made due to ongoing concerns about the delta variant and the fact that kids under 12 still can’t be vaccinated.
Both Venom 2 and Addams Family 2 were fueled by ethnically diverse audiences.
One new film that struggled was The Many Saints of Newark, a Sopranos prequel from Warner Bros. and New Line, which earned just $5 million to place No. 4. The film, like all 2021 Warners titles, is being made available at no extra charge to HBO Max customers. Those going to theaters gave the film a paltry C+ CinemaScore.
At the specialty box office, Titane opened to $515,000 from 562 U.S. cinemas to boast the largest opening for a Palme d’Or winner in over 17 years, and fourth ever behind Fahrenheit 9/11, Pulp Fiction and Wild at Heart, according to domestic distributor Neon.
Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company reported that the Erwin brothers faith-based documentary The Jesus Movie earned $560,250 from 249 screens.
Among holdovers, Shang-Chi held at No. 3 with $6 million for a domestic tally of $206.1 million.
Universal’s Dear Evan Hansen fell to No. 5 in its second outing. The musical tumbled a huge 67 percent to $2.5 million for a 10-day domestic tally of $11.8 million.
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