Believe it or not, we’re entering the final quarter of 2021. So far, seven movies have crossed the $100 million mark at the domestic box office. One was released during the spring (WB’s “Godzilla vs. Kong”), the other six during the summer, including Paramount’s “A Quiet Place: Part II” and Universal’s “F9: The Fast Saga”. The rest of the $100M+ champs belong to Disney, with 20th Century’s “Free Guy”, Marvel’s “Black Widow” & “Shang-Chi” and the Mouse House’s own “Jungle Cruise”.
Only one of those titles, “Shang-Chi”, is passing $200 million. Are there any more releases between now and New Year’s Eve that will join that exclusive club? It all depends on *if* studios still release their big movies and *if* audiences decide to go to cinemas, even as the weather turns colder in much of the country.
Out of the gate we have Sony’s much-delayed “Venom: Let There Be Carnage”. 2018’s “Venom” earned $213.5 million domestically. But I’ve got a feeling this sequel won’t get quite so high. $100 million-plus isn’t out of the question, though it’s not a guarantee, either.
All eyes will be on “No Time to Die”, Daniel Craig’s fifth and final James Bond movie. His terrific 2012 “Skyfall” totaled $304 million in North America, while the weaker “Spectre” only managed $200M in 2015 – a figure I’m sure would still thrill MGM. “No Time to Die” has a chance to top “Black Widow”’s $80.4M first weekend for the biggest start of 2021 so far. But with a 163-minute runtime, most indoor theaters will only get two or three showings per screen per day.
Universal shocked many by announcing a simultaneous theatrical and Peacock launch for “Halloween Kills” on October 15th. 2018’s “Halloween” earned $159 million… nearly half of that over its first three and a half days. I don’t believe this follow-up will make as much of a killing at the box office. Many may choose to watch it at home on NBC’s streaming service or give their theater money to Ridley Scott’s buzz-worthy drama “The Last Duel” starring Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck. Will that be a blockbuster? At this point it’s a coin flip. Same can be said for WB’s “Dune”. Will it bring-in more of a niche audience?
Marvel’s “Eternals” will be a tough box office act to follow after “Shang-Chi”. But this sci-fi action extravaganza opens in a little over a month on November 5th. Are Marvel fans ready to gear-up *again*… and then *again* on December 17th for “Spider-Man: No Way Home”? (I still suspect Spidey could move away from Christmas.)
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” needs $128 million to match what the 2016 female-led reboot made. If the fandom and older family audiences come-out over Thanksgiving, it should get there. But that may be asking a lot. The same goes for Steven Spielberg’s re-do of “West Side Story” (out Dec. 10).
Older guys will likely help ticket sales for WB’s “The Matrix Revolutions” during Christmastime (unless they pull a “Suicide Squad” and just watch it at home on HBO Max instead). That same demo is Disney’s target for long-awaited “The King’s Man” during that same period of time. Its advantage (for now): having a theatrical-exclusive open.
Animated and family films have done fine all things considered during this period of time, though not the gigantic numbers they saw pre-pandemic. MGM has “The Addams Family 2” this week and Disney’s got “Ron’s Gone Wrong” on Oct. 22 and “Encanto” on Nov. 24. Paramount just announced a simultaneous theater and Paramount+ debut for “Clifford the Big Red Dog” on Nov. 10.
If there’s one animated feature that has a chance to be a smash hit during the final quarter of 2021, it’s “Sing 2”, which Universal currently still has scheduled for December 22nd. The 2016 original earned a whopping $270 million domestically. The biggest family film of this pandemic so far is “Space Jam: A New Legacy”, which only grossed $70 million. (The highest-grossing fully animated feature is “The Croods: A New Age” with $58.6 million.) Will parents be comfortable bringing 5-11 year olds to theaters during the Christmas and New Year’s stretch, and does “Sing 2” have a chance of getting to $100, $150 or even $200 million? If it happens, Universal and theater owners will certainly be singing “Joy to the World”.