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Venom 2 Earns Second Best Thursday Preview Gross Of 2021 So Far, On Track For Big Opening

Venom: Let There Be Carnage brought in a whopping $11.6 million during Thursday previews last night. That handily topped the likes of Shang-Chi, which brought in $8.8 million, and F9, which made $7.1 million. In fact, this is the second highest preview gross of 2021, behind only the massive $13.2 million debut of Black Widow back in July.

Venom 2 came in even higher than the original Venom’s $10 million, which was a record for October at the time (Joker made $13.3 million in 2019). The original Venom went on to make $80.3 million opening weekend, which was above expectations and simply outstanding for a movie budgeted at only $100M (even Ant-Man cost $130M). That original film went on to be a global smash hit, earning $856M worldwide, which is something Let There Be Carnage can fall well short of and be profitable. Roughly 3x the budget means profitability, so Venom’s absurd 8.5x just shows how successful that first film was.

Back on the domestic front, sequels often earn more during previews as they’ve created more fan anticipation than a first film. That’s certainly the case here with the addition of fan favorite Carnage, played by the well regarded Woody Harrelson. Black Widow ironically made almost the exact same amount as Venom over the first three days, grossing $80.4 million. However, Widow was exclusive to theaters for only that Thursday night time frame, and then lost a little steam due to the simultaneous release on Disney Plus. The Scarlett Johansson led movie’s opening weekend still stands and the biggest debut of 2021 (or 2020 for that matter).

So where does that leave this Tom Hardy led sequel? Well, Sony low-balled expectations coming into the weekend, saying they saw a debut in the $40 million range. Other studios and box office analysts, myself included, expected the picture to top $50 million and make a run at $60 million or more. After the $11.6 million Thursday night, it looks very likely it will top the $47.5 million A Quiet Place Part 2 earned on memorial day weekend. In fact, Venom and Carnage may even go higher than the $57 million 4-day holiday gross of that Emily Blunt starring sequel. That would be the fourth best opening weekend of the year, behind F9 ($70M), Shang-Chi ($75.3M), and Black Widow ($80.3M).

Can it go higher? Sure, I think that due to a very buzzy mid credit scene, the movie being short (clocks 97 minutes with credits), and it having better reviews than its predecessor (58% on Rotten Tomatoes verses the first films 30%), it could end up challenging for a spot in the top three. What works against it is the first Venom was so divisive, and this movie doubles down on the weirdness and humor from that movie. Even though the reviews are better this time out, they’re well short of those earned by Black Widow (79% from Critics, 91% from audiences) and Shang-Chi (92% from critics, 98% from audiences).

We also know the “Fast” franchise has proven to be critic proof in the past, as the first four Fast and Furious flicks were rotten on RT. F9‘s 59% represented the worst reviews since the fourth installment. Still, the fans were gonna show up. Can Venom prove to be a similar kind of franchise success? I think so. Audiences are ready for new movies to hit the cinemas, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage is the first big budget movie to open stateside in a month. I think even those who didn’t like the first will give this one a shot since Carnage is such a popular and captivating character. And it really can’t be overstated just how buzzy that mid-credit scene is.

My guess is it may split that tight window between F9 and Shang-Chi and come in with low-$70 million. Yes, that would be short of the original’s $80M, but honestly that would be fantastic for a sequel to a poorly reviewed film opening during the end of a pandemic. Even without the Covid curve, a $70 million+ opening would be excellent, since the budget for Venom 2 is only $110M, much cheaper than that of Shang-Chi ($150M), F9 ($200M) or No Time To Die ($250M).

Check back tomorrow and Sunday for full updates on the box office, as we have other openers to keep an eye on in The Addams Family 2 (which only held previews in some areas) and The Many Saints of Newark (which didn’t hold previews).

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