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When it comes to the box office, success is relative. For most Hollywood studios, a $71 million domestic opening would be cause to bust out the bubbly and do a victory dance. But when your movie carries the Marvel banner, expectations are sky high. That’s why the debut of the superhero studio’s latest tentpole, Eternals, may seem like a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, the rookie’s $161.7 million global haul over the weekend was the second-biggest worldwide bow of 2021 (behind onlyF9: The Fast Saga’s $163 million), but its less-than-Marvel-ous reception among critics and audiences raises nagging questions about whether Eternals will have the same long theatrical legs as Marvel’s other recent hits.
With early projections putting Eternals’ North American opening somewhere in the neighborhood of $75-$80 million, the star-studded epic about a race of immortal beings fell slightly short of predictions. Still, its $71 million bow ($7.6 million of which came from IMAX screens) is nothing to sneeze at, as it represents the fourth-best domestic debut of the pandemic era, edged out only by three other Marvel and Marvel-affiliated properties: Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($90 million), Black Widow ($80.4 million), and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($75.4 million). Directed by Chloe Zhao, whose previous film was the Oscar-winning indie Nomadland, Eternals debuted in 4,090 theaters domestically, earning a $17,359 per-screen average. The PG-13-rated film, which stars Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, and Richard Madden among others, added $90.7 million overseas (with the strongest returns coming from South Korea, the United Kingdom, and France). It has not opened in the all-important Chinese market yet. However, it’s worth nothing that several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, halted the film’s release on religious grounds since it features the MCU’s first gay superhero. The film earned a ‘B’ CinemaScore grade (the lowest of any Marvel film to date) and currently has a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the only MCU film to be tagged with a green splat.
With the arrival of Eternals, the previous box-office champ, Dune, was knocked down to second place. Warner Bros.’ PG-13-rated futuristic adventure pulled in $7.6 million in its third weekend, falling off -50.6% from the previous frame. Unspooling at 3,546 locations, the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s cult sci-fi novel starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Oscar Isaac scored a $2,148 per-screen average. To date, the film which is also playing on HBO Max has racked up $83.9 million at the domestic box office and a far more robust $246.5 million overseas, bringing its combined worldwide gross to $330.4 million.
In third place was MGM’s 007 sequel, No Time to Die, which tacked on $6.2 million in its fifth weekend. The latest 007 adventure (starring Daniel Craig in his last turn in the tux), slipped -20.3% from the prior session, scoring a $2,055 per-screen average in 3,007 venues. The PG-13-rated film has now earned $143.2 million at the domestic box office and $524.3 million abroad. Its combined worldwide box office is $667.5 million. The biggest Bond news of the weekend was the announcement that No Time to Die would become available for rental on premium VOD outlets this week for $19.99.
In fourth place was Sony’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The PG-13-rated supervillain sequel starring Tom Hardy, dipped -22.4% from the previous weekend, pulling in $4.5 million in North America. Playing in 2,640 theaters, the movie scored a $1,691 per-screen average in its sixth session, putting its six-week domestic tally at $197 million. The film has added another $227.6 million in foreign ticket sales, bringing its global box-office total to $424.6 million.
Rounding out the top five was 20th Century Studio’s Ron’s Gone Wrong. The PG-rated animated family film about a boy and his malfunctioning mobile device earned $3.6 million in its third weekend in theaters, slipping just -3.8% from the previous weekend. The movie which features the voice of Zach Galifianakis scored a $1,358 per-screen average at 2,650 locations. Its domestic box-office tally now sits at $17.6 million and it has added $28.9 million abroad, bringing its global cume to $46.5 million.
On a final note, one of the upcoming awards season’s most hotly anticipated contenders, the impressionistic Princess Diana character study Spencer, opened in eighth place with $2.2 million. The R-rated arthouse drama from Neon which stars Kristen Stewart as the tragic royal bowed in 996 theaters and scored a $2,156 per-screen average. Critics have mostly swooned for the off-beat film, giving it an 85% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Spencer has not been released internationally yet.
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