Venom: Let There Be Carnage And ‘Sopranos’ Fall Hard, ‘Shang-Chi’ Hold Firm

In holdover news, Venom: Let There Be Carnage Movies earned $8.85 million on its second Friday, falling a brutal 76% and setting the stage for a $32.49 million (-64%) second-weekend gross. Venom fell 69% on its second Friday with far less competition, all due respect to First Man. A 64% weekend drop for Venom 2 would be just slightly worse than the 62% drops for Spider-Man: Homecoming in 2017 and Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2018, both of which legged out afterward. The hope is that the Tom Hardy/Woody Harrelson superhero sequel plays like those films or a 2000’s-era Adam Sandler flick, namely with a big second-weekend drop but with strong legs over the next month as the consensus choice/second-choice for moviegoing groups.

With $142.5 million in ten days, the merely $110 million-budgeted Sony flick could only be as leggy as Halloween ($159 million from a $126 million ten-day cume after a $76 million debut) and still make it to $180 million domestic. Legs like Black Widow (1.39x its $131 million ten-day total after an $80 million debut and 67% second-weekend drop) would get Let There Be Carnage to $199 million. If it’s close to $200 million, I’d expect Sony to do what they did with Spectre and keep it in theaters for months on end to get it past the finish line. Maybe a double bill with Ghostbusters: Afterlife in early December? I’d still argue it’s performing as expected with a 15% loss due to Covid variables.

MGM’s The Addams Family 2 earned another $2.773 million (-52%) on its second Friday, setting the stage for a Saturday/Sunday kid-powered recovery and an $11 million (-38%) second-weekend gross. That’ll give the animated sequel a $31.8 million ten-day total, or just under the $30 million which its 2019 predecessor grossed on opening weekend. That predecessor dropped 46% in the face of more demographically-specific competition (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil), so this is a good hold so far. If it sticks around, we can expect a $55-$60 million domestic finish. Again, this sequel was never going to top its “folks were curious the first time” predecessor. A non-Covid $70 million domestic gross ($60 million x 1.15) would have seemed about right.

After getting a shellacking from Venom 2 Online last weekend, Disney and Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings rebounded with a $1.17 million (-31%) Friday for a $209 million domestic cume. That sets the stage for a $4.37 million (-28%) sixth-weekend gross, bringing the MCU actioner’s cume to $213 million. Before 2020, we hadn’t gone a year without at least one $220 million-plus grosser since 1998 (Saving Private Ryan with $217 million), and it would appear that 2021 will escape that fate as well. The last “no $300 million grossers” year before 2020 was 2000, led by The Grinch ($260 million). We’ll see if Spider-Man: No Way Home can avoid making 2021 a member of that unfortunate club. No pressure, Peter Parker…

The Many Saints of Newark earned $400,000 (-81%) on its second Friday, setting the stage for a $1.32 million (-72%) weekend and $7.3 million ten-day total. This Sopranos prequel was never, ever going to play beyond the fanbase, not before Covid and certainly not know. Save for big examples like The Godfather and Goodfellas, the action-lite mob movie usually isn’t as commercially reliable a genre (ditto World War II flicks) as Hollywood seems to think. There’s a reason Paramount and friends wouldn’t spend $160 million on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. Even in a pre-Covid market, even spending $60 million on that film was a calculated risk. Oh well, if HBO Max gets a David Chase-created Sopranos spin-off, maybe it will have been worth it.

The Battle At Lake Changjin earned “just” $37.2 million on its second Saturday in China, dropping a reasonable 45% from its $63.8 million first-Saturday gross. That brings the 176-minute Korean War epic’s ten-day cume (it opened on a Thursday) to $592 million, meaning it will most certainly pass $600 million in China sometime today. It could end the weekend with around $625 million, so a $800 million finish remains “plausible.” Candyman will top $60 million domestic by tomorrow night as Free Guy will end weekend nine just under $120 million domestic. Neon’s Titane will end the second weekend with just under $1 million, or about tied with the likely $980,000 opening weekend of A24’s Lamb. If you want the best possible double-feature…

Did Venom: Let There Be Carnage Just Blow Up the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Unlike typical post-credits stingers in Marvel movies, the one that appears at the end of Venom: Let There Be Carnage—the latest entry in Sony’s Spider-Man-centric cinematic universe—isn’t setting up what happens next in the franchise. Instead, it’s begging us to ask this question: “What happens now?”

[Spoilers for Venom: Let There Be Carnage follow.]

The post-credits scene is relatively short. Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom, his antiheroic symbiote and supposedly platonic bestie, are relaxing and watching some TV just after defeating Woody Harrelson’s Carnage—as one does with their monstrous alter ego, of course. Eddie starts to ask Venom about any potential secrets the creature has been keeping from him, and just as Venom is about to explain how there are several universes all connected through the symbiote network, the room physically shifts. There’s a bright yellow glow (one that immediately brings to mind Doctor Strange’s cosmic powers), and suddenly the TV changes from the show they’re watching to the news. On the TV screen is the sound of J.K. Simmons’ J. Jonah Jameson talking about Peter Parker, but the version of Spider-Man on the screen isn’t Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield—the Spideys who have never existed or appeared in the newer, bigger, overarching Marvel Cinematic Universe. Instead, this Peter Parker is played by Tom Holland.

For anyone who’s paid attention to the various Marvel universes over the last decade, this is a pretty big “um…wait — what?!” moment to happen on screen. While Tom Holland is our current Peter, he’s never intersected with the others (at least, so far)—or anyone else outside of the Avengers. To best understand why the post-credits scene started making the rounds on TikTok and Twitter with such strong reactions attached, it’s important to remember that there are two Marvel universes playing out on the big screen. There’s the hugely successful, interlocking Marvel Cinematic Universe (the one with Captain America and Iron Man) that’s run for more than a decade, and then there’s Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (yes, that’s its real, official name). One universe has Spider-Man in it, and another universe is loaning Spider-Man out to the other. Stick with me.

When Eddie Brock and Venom are watching Holland’s Spider-Man on the news, the only question on everyone’s tongue is whether the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Sony’s Spider-Man Universe will finally coexist. If the main characters from Venom: Let There Be Carnage are aware of Holland’s Peter Parker, does this mean that Venom can—and even might—appear in December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, the upcoming third entry in the MCU Spider-Man film series?

Before we answer that question, remember: Spider-Man: No Way Home specifically takes place (and is premiering) during a time when the MCU and its cast of heroes are undergoing a massive switch. Marvel Studios is about to kick off its big multiverse introduction—think of this as a way to allow multiple heroes from different eras and dimensions to all meet up with one another. Doctor Octopus, who appeared in 2004’s Spider-Man 2, will be in the new Spider-Man movie, for example, as will Jamie Foxx’s Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).

Considering the plot of Spider-Man: No Way Home—in which Peter Parker asks Doctor Strange to use his cosmic powers to change time in order to go back to before his identity was revealed to the world, causing the time continuum to break in the process—it could make sense, story-wise, for Venom to appear. That’s especially true if the yellow glow we see in Let There Be Carnage’s post-credits scene is the result of whatever Doctor Strange might have done to open a portal.

While Eddie Brock/Venom appearing in No Way Home could be feasible on a pure rights level (both Venom and Spider-Man are Sony-owned productions), the bigger question fans likely have is whether Sony-owned characters like Venom could eventually interact with heroes in a Marvel movie that Sony isn’t financing. Spider-Man belongs to Sony, but Spider-Man: No Way Home is also part of Disney’s MCU.

Yes, this is as complicated as it sounds. The way this works is that Spider-Man is a unique character within the Marvel pantheon; when Sony had the opportunity to buy the film rights to nearly all of Marvel’s comic book characters in the late ’90s, just after Marvel Comics filed for bankruptcy, the studio decided to pass on most of the Marvel heroes. Instead, Sony Pictures paid Marvel $7 million for the rights to Spider-Man alone. 20th Century Fox picked up the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, Iron Man bounced around, and Universal Pictures nabbed the Hulk.

Over the past decade, and following the acquisition of Marvel by Disney in 2009, most of the rights to those characters wound up at Disney. This made the expansive cinematic universe possible, whereas any crossovers would have been caught up in the red tape of copyright before this consolidation. Since then, Disney’s Marvel movies have made more than $23 billion at the box office alone.

And Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019 meant the X-Men and the Fantastic Four can now exist in the MCU. It’s already happening. Evan Peters, who played a version of Quicksilver in Fox’s X-Men movies, reprised his role in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge way during Disney+’s WandaVision series. Disney is also currently working on a new Fantastic Four movie, bringing those (likely to be recast) heroes directly into the MCU for the first time.

But Sony has seemingly never been interested in selling Spidey back to Marvel. Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man movie trilogy, which ran from 2002 through 2007, helped kick off the modern blockbuster era, let alone the superhero movie craze. It also brought in $2.5 billion at the box office, a huge success for Sony. Sony tried to repeat that level of success with the web slinger in 2012, to varying degrees of success. The two Andrew Garfield–starring Amazing Spider-Man movies grossed roughly $1.46 billion at the box office combined, which isn’t terrible, but critics and audiences weren’t as taken with the movies at the time as they were with the Tobey Maguire–led series.

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