Can ‘Venom 2’ Deliver a Big Start to a Busy October Box Office?

·4 min read

After a September dominated by Disney/Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings,” the box office is about to enter its most critical stage since theaters reopened. A crowded October film slate is about to begin, starting with this Friday’s launch of Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.”

The original “Venom” was somewhat of a surprise hit in 2018, overcoming skeptical pre-release word-of-mouth and weak reviews due to the campy performance of Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock and the alien symbiote Venom that takes up residence in his body. The film opened to $80 million in the U.S. and grossed $213 million domestic, $269 million in China and $856 million globally.

Of course, in the COVID era, “Venom 2” isn’t expected to get anywhere near those figures; but the sequel could be another step in building the consistently stronger numbers needed to get the box office back to normal. Sony reps say the studio is hoping for a result somewhere between the openings of last month’s “The Suicide Squad” ($26.2 million) and Paramount’s May release of “A Quiet Place — Part II” ($47.5 million) and is projecting a conservative domestic launch around $40 million.

But analysts told TheWrap that “Venom 2” could exceed $60 million in its opening weekend if audience word-of-mouth is as strong as for the original “Venom.” While reviews for the film haven’t been released yet, early word on social media from press screenings is that the sequel leans harder into the dark humor of the first film and the quirky relationship between Eddie and Venom that led fans to pair them as a romantic couple.

Regardless of its opening, the road ahead will be tough for “Venom 2” as it will face off against major titles like MGM’s “No Time to Die,” Warner Bros.’ “Dune” and Universal’s “Halloween Kills” over the course of October. The hope for Sony is that “Venom 2” can find a lane for itself amidst the competition as a title that offers the dark thrills that audiences tend to go for around Halloween but also offers the humor and fun that horror films like “Halloween Kills” won’t have. “Venom” hit the increasingly rare spot of films that defy critical reception and find an audience anyway, and Sony is betting that they can do it again.

Also releasing this weekend are a pair of films that are also coming out on home platforms. First is Warner Bros.’ “The Many Saints of Newark,” a prequel to the beloved HBO show “The Sopranos” that sees the late James Gandolfini’s son Michael play a younger version of Tony Soprano, the mob boss made famous by his dad. Critics have given the film a 76% score on Rotten Tomatoes, calling it an enjoyable but inessential origin story that should please most “Sopranos” fans.

While the film is being released simultaneously on HBO Max, “Many Saints of Newark” likely would have been a modest box office performer even with theatrical exclusivity, as it is unlikely to gain much of an audience beyond the most devoted fans of a show that ended in 2007. Combine that with the possibility that streaming may be a more popular option for “Newark” as it is on the same streaming service as all six seasons of “Sopranos,” the film is expected to earn an opening weekend below $10 million from 3,180 locations.

Looking slightly better is United Artists/MGM’s “The Addams Family 2,” a sequel to the 2019 animated film adaptation of the classic TV series. As with many other animated family films this year, “Addams 2” is getting a hybrid release in theaters and on digital rental to appeal to parents uncomfortable with taking their kids to theaters during COVID-19 or looking for a more affordable way to watch new family films.

In August, “Paw Patrol: The Movie” opened to $13.1 million even as it launched simultaneously on Paramount+, and “Addams 2” is expected to perform similarly with a $13-16 million opening from 3,700+ locations. By comparison, the first “Addams Family” opened to $30 million two years ago.

On the indie side, Neon will release “Titane,” the provocative Palme D’Or winner from director Julia Ducourneau that has wowed critics with its disturbing imagery and emotional narrative with a 91% Rotten Tomatoes score. As with other festival hits like “The Card Counter” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” “Titane” will eschew the slow rollout strategy in favor of a release in 562 locations across 100 cities in the U.S. and Canada.

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Bond film “No Time to Die” will be released in 50 overseas markets — including the U.K. — ahead of its U.S. release on October 8. Daniel Craig’s final film in the spy series has received early raves and is expected to bring in $80-100 million from its overseas launch in what is expected to be a major test of global moviegoing interest amidst the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. MGM is handling domestic and U.K. distribution while Universal handles all other international distribution.