Following a quiet stretch at the domestic box office, Sony’s comic book sequel “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” looks to make some noise. The film opens in theaters on Friday after five delays, something of a pandemic-record.
Directed by Andy Serkis and starring Tom Hardy as an otherworldly lethal protector, the superhero movie is estimated to collect at least $50 million in its opening weekend. But, given the unpredictable moviegoing landscape, that figure comes with a symbiote-sized asterisk. Some industry experts have indicated that pent-up anticipation could propel inaugural ticket sales for “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” as high as $65 million. After all, theaters have been without a buzzy new release since Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” opened on the big screen nearly a month ago. That should mean the box office is primed for a hit. Sony, however, is tempering expectations, knowing that we’re still living through a generational public heath crisis. The studio behind the follow-up film is projecting a debut closer to $40 million.
The “Venom” sequel cost $110 million to produce, not including hefty promotional fees. The PG-13 film appeals mostly to male audiences, which could work in its favor. As the film exhibition industry attempts to recover from the pandemic, younger men have fueled box office returns for Marvel’s “Black Widow” and “Shang-Chi,” Universal’s “Fast and Furious” installment “F9″ and the Ryan Reynolds sci-fi comedy “Free Guy.” That’s not to say every movie geared toward boys has been a hit. There have been several duds, like the Warner Bros. superhero adaptation “The Suicide Squad” and Paramount’s “G.I. Joe” entry “Snake Eyes.”
A potential benefit is that “Venom: Let There be Carnage” is playing only in theaters, a factor that helped sustain revenues for exclusive big screen offerings like “Free Guy” and “Shang-Chi.” More often than not, pandemic-era movies that landed day-and-date on streaming platforms — such as “Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” and Warner Bros.’ “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” have suffered steep declines in the weeks following its opening in theaters.
There’s one thing that “Venom 2” may not need in order to entice audiences, and that’s positive reviews. Critics panned the first “Venom” (it has a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes), which did little to deter comic book enthusiasts. The 2018 film became an unexpected box office success, grossing $80 million in its debut and ending its theatrical run with $213 million in North America and $856 million worldwide. It also inspired Sony to greenlight even more superhero properties, Jared Leto’s “Morbius” among them, inspired by its arsenal of Marvel characters.
“Venom: Let There be Carnage” will easily top the domestic box office, but it won’t be the only new movie to open nationwide. Two newcomers — the animated comedy “The Addams Family 2” and “The Many Saints of Newark,” a prequel story set in “The Sopranos” universe — will compete for second place, with the former expected to pull ahead.
“The Many Saints of Newark,” playing in 3,180 venues, looks to be the latest Warner Bros. movie to debut to $10 million or less while it opens simultaneously on HBO Max. The studio’s executives have maintained that streaming hasn’t cannibalized ticket sales, saying that movies striking out at the box office have also been failing to draw a big audience on HBO Max. “The Many Saints of Newark” isn’t on track to have a big turnout in theaters, but it could prove the exception to the HBO Max effect. “Sopranos” fans have been trained to catch up the happenings of the all-powerful mobsters from the comfort of their couch, and longtime devotees to the HBO series could prefer to watch the latest addition at home.
“The Many Saints of Newark” follows the teenage years of Tony Soprano (portrayed by Michael Gandolfini, son of the late “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini) and company as rival gangsters begin to challenge the crime family’s hold over the city. David Chase, who created “The Sopranos,” co-wrote the script with Lawrence Konner.
Targeting a very different kind of family audience, the PG-rated “The Addams Family 2” is projected to make $15 million to $17 million from 3,700 theaters in its first weekend in theaters. That would be a much smaller start than its predecessor, 2019’s “The Addams Family,” which amassed $30 million in its opening. However, the sequel will be available on premium video-on-demand platforms on the same day as its theatrical debut, which will cut into ticket sales. Unlike the HBO Max release plan, in which subscribers can watch new movies at no extra cost, patrons will have to pay $19.99 to rent “The Addams Family 2” and witness the adventures of the morbid Morticia and Gomez and their kooky kin. Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron and Chloe Grace Moretz round out the voice cast.