Marvel’s ‘Eternals’ To Boost The Box Office
There have been many uncertainties at the box office since the pandemic began, but if there’s one thing that remains as true as ever, it is the box office dominance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). MCU films Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are two of the three top grossing films of the year, and the other film in the top three is Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which is part of Sony’s Spider-Man Universe and has some tie-ins with the MCU. This weekend sees the release of Eternals, the newest property in the MCU, and it is set to give the box office a jolt after a few weeks of declining grosses.

Opening on over 4,000 screens, the theatrical exclusive Eternals is the first film appearance of its titular race of immortal alien humanoid beings who are protectors of Earth against their evil counterparts the Deviants. The characters may be new but many faces are familiar, with a diverse ensemble cast that includes Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie. The film is written and directed by Chloé Zhao, hot off her Best Picture and Best Director Oscar wins for Nomadland, making her the first MCU director to have a directing Oscar.

Despite the prestigious talent behind the camera, critics are mixed on the film. Many critics have praised the ambition of the 157 minute epic, but Eternals’ 52% Rotten Tomatoes score is the lowest in the entire franchise, which has seen consistently positive critical responses for its films. That probably does not change much for the film’s opening weekend prospects, though, and a comparable gross to Shang-Chi’s $75.4 million opening is certainly possible, but whether it has the word of mouth and remarkable legs of Shang-Chi is another story.

Eternals is also set for a massive worldwide opening, and it started its rollout on Wednesday in 14 markets. It scored the second best opening day of the year in Korea, Hong Kong, and Sweden in addition to strong openings in France, Italy, Germany, and Taiwan, and Disney is reporting that in like-for-like markets it is 20% ahead of Black Widow and 85% of Shang-Chi based on their opening day grosses. By Friday it will have opened in most of the world, though Russia will have to wait due to lockdowns and it may miss a release altogether in China, as was the case for Black Widow and Shang-Chi.

The domestic box office will be a lopsided one with no other films likely to even crack $10 million this weekend, though there are many new specialty box office titles. Among them is Neon’s Spencer which played in competition at Venice. Directed by Pablo Larraín (No, Jackie), the film stars Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana as she makes the decision to get a divorce from Prince Charles, who is played by Jack Farthing. Spencer, which also stars Timothy Spall, Sean Harris, and Sally Hawkins, is at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Also receiving critical acclaim is IFC’s film industry set dark comedy/thriller The Beta Test, which premiered at Berlin earlier this year. The film is written and directed by its lead actors Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe, and it is at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Netflix’ big budget Red Notice, which stars Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot, is hitting select screens a week ahead of its streaming debut. The film is from writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber who has previously teamed with Johnson on Central Intelligence and Skyscraper. Like Netflix’ theatrical release of Army of the Dead in May and The Harder They Fall two weekends ago, the theatrical release is more about promotion than the box office returns, and we are unlikely to see box office numbers from Netflix.

There’s a good chance we will see some Indian movies make it into the top ten this weekend. Coinciding with the Diwali holiday are the releases of the high profile, star studded films Sooryavanshi and Annaatthe.

Wednesday night saw strong event screening numbers for Trafalgar’s The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis, which nabbed $1.2 million from 400+ theaters. More showings of the faith based biopic are planned in the coming weeks.