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‘Eternals’: Best and Worst Case Box Office Scenarios After $71 Million Launch
Weak reviews didn’t cripple Marvel’s latest film, but mediocre audience reception might
“Eternals” proved what box office analysts already knew: Marvel diehards don’t care about reviews. But after a weekend with good ticket sales but mediocre word of mouth, Chloé Zhao’s blockbuster is facing a rougher road to box office domination (and profitability) that no MCU film has faced before.
Granted, “Eternals” opened to an estimated $71 million domestically and $161 million globally, the latter being the second-highest global weekend total posted by a Hollywood film this year. Disney also noted that the film nearly matched the $167 million global opening of 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” a film that had the advantage of debuting during summer holidays in 2018.
But “Eternals” — which had a reported production budget of $200 million, before marketing costs — has posted the worst scores of any MCU film on CinemaScore, with a B. Nearly every MCU film has scored at least an A- on CinemaScore, with the one exception being a B+ for 2011’s “Thor.” For comparison, Zack Snyder’s polarizing DC film “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” also received a B.
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Strong audience buzz has been a given for MCU films, so we’re in virgin territory with the lukewarm response to “Eternals.” Given the current state of the post-shutdown box office, the only measuring stick we can use for “Eternals” is its direct MCU predecessor, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a $150 million-budgeted film that opened to $75.8 million domestically and has grossed $223.7 million.
In the best case scenario, a mix of strong premium format revenue, a lack of competition and curiosity about the film’s somewhat new approach to the Marvel formula could give the film a strong hold in its second week. In September, “Shang-Chi” earned $34.7 million in its second weekend — a modest 54% drop. But that film enjoyed critical and audience acclaim on the level of some of the best-received Marvel films, like “Black Panther.”
“Eternals,” of course, doesn’t have that acclaim on its side so there’s a good chance it could face a drop like the one for Warner Bros.’ “The Suicide Squad” in August. Despite stronger reviews, the R-Rated DC film fell a staggering 71% in its second weekend and saw its theatrical run meet an early demise.
Granted, “The Suicide Squad” was also available on streaming while “Eternals” is only in theaters. But “The Suicide Squad” was unable to convince moviegoers outside of DC fans that it was worth seeing on the big screen. While “Eternals” is starting from a stronger position, it may see a drop of 65% or higher if would-be moviegoers decide that this is an MCU film that they can wait to see on Disney+ or even skip entirely.
Based on the $71 million launch, the benchmark for “Eternals” in its second weekend should probably be set around $28.5 million, a figure that would signify a 60% weekend drop. Mid-week figures will provide more clues as to which side of this bar “Eternals” will fall. “Eternals” also benefits from a lack of strong competition given that the only new wide release it faces this weekend is Paramount’s family film “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”
Tony Chambers, Disney’s EVP of theatrical distribution, isn’t making any projections yet for next weekend. But he told TheWrap he was encouraged by the relatively solid Friday-to-Saturday drop in ticket sales. “Based on what we were told externally on where we would be on Saturday and Sunday, I’m pleased by the numbers that we are seeing so far,” Chambers said, noting that domestic box office fell about 20% from Friday’s $30 million opening day total, about par for big tentpole movies and less than what some analysts were projecting.
And the film has performed similarly in overseas markets like Korea, Chambers added. In Korea, where the film got a tepid reception, particularly for the character arc of Korean film star Don Lee’s Gilgamesh, walk-up ticket sales remained steady through the weekend. In fact, Chambers said, the five-day start for “Eternals” has already nearly eclipsed the entire Korean run for “Shang-Chi,” with $14.4 million in grosses.
Plus, Chambers noted that “Eternals” is the only four-quadrant movie over the next few weeks since Paramount moved “Mission: Impossible 7” out of November and Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” doesn’t hit theaters until Nov. 19. “That really opens up the month for us when it comes to general audiences,” he said.