Sony, which has been overly cautious and conservative in their projections for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, always had a hit on their hands, as the Marvel sequel easily scoring the best domestic opening at the box office with $90.1M; exceeding the previous pandemic U.S./Canada debut of Black Widow which was $80.8M. Not only that, but the Sony/Marvel movie exceeded the original 2018 title’s opening of $80.2M by 12%; amazing for a sequel to best its first chapter’s grosses during a pandemic.
Even though Sony has sent movies straight to streamers to financially survive during the pandemic, when it comes to whatever titles they’re releasing in theaters, they’re bullish about the theatrical window, and Venom 2 is a win for them and the industry in regards to that business philosophy. Black Widow went day-and-date in cinemas on the Disney+ Premier PVOD tier.
“For us, Venom: Let There Be Carnage absolutely validates our exclusive theatrical window strategy,” exclaimed Sony President, Motion Pictures Group Josh Greenstein, “If you look at the history of theatrical, the obituaries have been written many times and they’ve always been wrong. We had confidence in the theatrical experience, confidence in our big valuable IP and took full advantage and had the patience to weather all of this. That strategy is paying off which we’re happy about. It’s a nice validation of the theatrical strategy.”
Venom 2‘s opening here in U.S. and Canada, while the highest we’ve seen during the pandemic, is the second best ever for the month of October, behind Warner Bros/Village Roadshow/Bron’s Joker ($96.2M).
Beamed Tom Rothman, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures’ Motion Picture Group, “We are so grateful to Tom, Andy, Kelly and all of the many gifted contributors who made such a unique and fun film. We are also pleased that patience and theatrical exclusivity have been rewarded with record results. With apologies to Mr. Twain: The death of movies has been greatly exaggerated.”
Venom 2‘s Saturday is $31.6M, -15% from Friday/Thursday previews total of $37.29M, and Sunday is projected to be $21.2M. Imax, PLFs and 3D are repping 64% of the pic’s gross with Cinemark’s XD seeing the strongest October performance of all time. Imax reports that Venom 2 drew $9.6M WW, $8.6M of that from 402 screens stateside and the large format exhibitor’s best domestic opening during the pandemic and 3rd best ever for October.
Sony’s Venom 2 wasn’t the only film raining cash on exhibition, but MGM/United Artists Releasing’s Addams Family 2 put up a great $18M at 4,207 theaters, even though it was available in homes on PVOD for a 48-hour rental at $19.99. For a pure animation film geared at families (not hybrid), that’s the biggest opening during the pandemic.
“This shows that family audiences having a willingness and readiness to come to theaters,” beamed United Artists Releasing Distribution Boss Erik Lomis, “The film played to families in the West, Middle America and Southwest.” In addition, it was a diverse turnout for the family sequel with close to half the audience being Latino/Hispanic and Black. Through out it all with rival family film Hotel Transylvania 4 (before it left) and Venom 2 dating on it, Addams Family 2 stuck to its release date.
Early figures show that because of Venom 2 and Addams Family 2, total ticket sales are at $128M, -15% from the same weekend in 2019, per Comscore. EntTelligence reports that over 10M people –the most ever during the pandemic in a given weekend– put the remote control down and got out of the living room to see one of the of the top ten movies this weekend with over 70% watching Venom 2.
“Venom: Let There be Carnage is a box office sensation. This film really resonated with our moviegoers, delivering results that significantly outpace the industry performance and set multiple all-time Cinemark records, including largest-ever October box office weekend,” exclaimed Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi in a statement. “This is another strong example that people want and need to get out of their homes for an immersive entertainment experience. Congratulations to our partners at Sony and all the talent involved on delivering such a fantastic film for our moviegoers to see exclusively in a movie theatre.”
While Sony decided only a month ago after seeing the success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings over Labor Day weekend to push Venom 2 from its most recent release date of Oct. 15 to Oct. 1 after dropping posters which already had the older dates on them, full praise to their marketing department for being relentless in pivoting their campaign and seeing fruits such as this bear forth from it. Changing the release date of a major motion picture event over several times during a short period as the pic comes closer to its opening date sounds like a recipe for disaster: By doing so, how can you ensure the moviegoing audience knows when the movie is coming out? But in the case of Venom 2, moviegoers were clearly keeping watch. The hot word of mouth obviously got out that the sequel was in theaters: Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak shows that only 19% of the audience bought their tickets in advance (by either a week or month ago), indicating that Venom 2 received a bulk of walk-up business over the last three days. Sixty-six percent of those who watched the Sony sequel bought their ticket day of, while 15% bought their tickets the day prior. On PostTrak, they enjoyed the movie at 4 stars.
“We were able to move quickly and nimble. We have a very, very fast-moving organization and can change plans very quickly and in this case were able to launch over a shorter period, it’s a credit to the movie and the organization,” says Greenstein about responding to moviegoers’ prompt return to cinemas during the pandemic, and Venom 2‘s marketing strategy.
“We’re thrilled that the strategy worked. We moved this movie multiple times, and it goes to show if you create an event, as long as you capture it, as long as you create a cultural event. In fact, releasing movies in theaters allows you to do that. If you release movies on streaming, it doesn’t have the same kind of cultural impact,” adds Greenstein.
In regards to the most influential piece of marketing for Venom 2, those polled by PostTrak said it was mostly the trailer on YouTube (20%) followed by the pic’s trailer in theater (14%), social media/celebrity endorsement of the pic (13%), friends and family recommending (10%) and the online trailer (10%). That social media/celebrity endorsement is important to note: Part of Sony’s push were “Venomizatios” with over 75 celebrities and influencers around the world promoting Venom on social with custom animation GIFs, including Jimmy Kimmel. NFL player George Kittle starred in a popular ESPN promo as Eddie and Venom’s new roommate, hosted his own screening, and did a social post where he was turned into Carnage.
Sony made Sept. 27, Venom Day, and celebrated the Marvel protagonist with social posts, publicity activity, a real-time ‘get roasted by Venom’ Twitter activation, vignette and clip releases, and social initiatives, culminating in stunted fan screenings with intros by Tom Hardy (taped) and director Andy Serkis and resultant reaction initiatives and ads. Sony also screened the movie around the world starting early in the UK (Sept 13) followed by NY, LA and other major markets around the world.
“We let the fans see the movie first which was a bit of a gamble. But it’s their first reactions out there in the world and it’s what got people going. We had the confidence that they’d love the movie and used all that social sentiment starting with the first UK screening two weeks ago to last Monday screenings in NY and LA. We really let the fans carry us though,” adds Greenstein.
Sony also reached out to their immediate PlayStation demos launching an exclusive sneak peek “The Birth of Carnage” which has been watched over 7M times and counting.
Drilling down the moviegoer response to Venom 2, PostTrak reports that 43% of those who attended came out as the sequel was part of a franchise they enjoyed, 40% came for the genre/plot, 25% came with a friend who wanted to see it, 23% heard the sequel was good, while 21% came out for star Hardy, 21% for the entire cast, and only 10% because of film reviews.
Warner Bros./New Line’s Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark came in below what was spotted yesterday with $5M at 3,181 theaters. I’d be curious what the business on this film would be without HBO Max. True: the older adult demo is going to be very slow to come back versus the 18-34 crowd (who showed up at 64% for Venom 2), however, this feature from Sopranos architect David Chase, who co-wrote and produced, was dogged by bad word of mouth at C+. Still, we can’t wait to see any kind of HBO Max viewership figures for this film and whether the streamer exploits this movie further by creating a Sopranos prequel limited series. Who wouldn’t want to watch that at home? Some might say that it would have helped that the word Sopranos was in the title, however, until we’re mask-less, and it’s really safe, can we expect older audiences to come out.
How Addams Family 2 snapped up theatergoers
United Artists Releasing had a big promotional partner campaign for the animated sequel including a TV spot and social media from Progressive insurance; the ad re-writing the classics Addams Family theme song. There was also a TV spot from Realtor.com, the biggest real estate website in the U.S. with the iconic spooky family’s home and Realtor’s “To Each Their Home” campaign. GO RVing launched an integrated marketing campaign to inspire RV travel that takes family and friends on unforgettable adventures – just like the Addams family. Go RVing produced a commercial in Wyoming using RVs to recreate the famous “Snap Snap Song”. The Kellogg Company created The Addams Family 2-inspired limited-edition cereal and snacks across such products as Apple Jacks, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, On the Go JumboSnax, Pop Tarts Bites and Rice Krispies with custom character artwork on millions of packages. Other partners included Goodwill with a TV spot and in-store promotions for the film at 3K locations. There was also Ibotta, the cashback app with 40M registered users at 500K retailers, which teamed with UAR on an all-family promotional event centered around Ibotta’s Halloween CPG and retail program via TV spots and social media pushes. Addams Family 2 was also splashed on millions of packages of Tombstone pizza. Other partners included Menchie’s, Valpak and Dracula Citrus and GSTV.
UAR trailered the pic across Space Jam: A New Legacy, Jungle Cruise and Paw Patrol, with on-screen content reaching over 25K screens. Theater circuits promoted through paid and organic social, push notifications, homepage web banners, eblasts and app inclusion. There was a fall candy promotion with AMC, RV AR driving activations with Regal, Cinemark Icee Promotion and in theater concessions.
The chart for Oct. 1-3, 2021:
1.) Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Sony) 4,225 Theaters Fri $37.2M/St $31.6M/Sun $21.2/3-day $90.1M/Wk 1
2.) The Addams Family 2 (UAR) 4,207 theaters Fri $5.6M/Sat $7M/Sun $5.4M/3-day $18M/Wk 1
3.) Shang-Chi (Dis) 3,455 (-497) theaters Fri $1.62M / Sat $2.77M/Sun $1.63M/3-day $6M (-54%), Total: $206.1M/Wk 5
4.) The Many Saints of Newark (NL) 3,181 theaters Fri $2.1M, Sat $1.67M/Sun $1.25M/3-day $5M/Wk 1
5.) Dear Evan Hansen (Uni) 3,364 theaters Fri $740K/ Sat $1.05M/Sun $660K/ 3-day $2.45M (-67%), Total: $11.8M/Wk 2
6.) Free Guy (20th/Dis) 2,545 (-630) theaters Fri $611K / Sat $1.07M/Sun $599K/3-day $2.27M (-45%), Total: $117.6M/Wk 8
7.) Candyman (Uni) 1,745 (-811) theaters Fri $350K / Sat $570K/Sun $310K/ 3-day $1.23M (-52%), Total: $58.9M/Wk 6
8.) Jungle Cruise (Dis) 1,375 (-690) theaters Fri $171K/Sat $329K/Sun $180K, 3-day: $680K (-61%)/Total: $116M/Wk 10
9.) Chal Mera Putt 3 (RBE) 90 theaters Fri $210K/Sat $230K/Sun $203K, 3-day: $644K/Wk 1
10.) The Jesus Music (LG) 249 theaters Fri $244K/Sat $174K/Sun $142,2K, 3-day: $560,2K/Wk 1
Titane (NEON) 562 theaters Fri $223K/Sat $173K/Sun $119K, 3-day, $515,7K/Wk 1
Eyes of Tammy Faye (Sea) 985 (-367) theaters Fri $73K / Sat $100K/Sun $63K/3-day $236K (-62%), Total: $2.1M/Wk 3
Next week Greenwich has NatGeo’s The Rescue, the follow-up to the Oscar winning hit doc Free Solo by Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, about the Thai cave rescue of 2018 by a team of international divers, in exclusive runs in NYC, LA and Chicago. October 15 sees a week 2 moderate expansion to 400 runs.