Searchlight Pictures released Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch in 52 theaters in advance of its nationwide debut next weekend. The well-reviewed (74% fresh and 7.1/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) ode to old-school journalism earned a slightly frontloaded $1.3 million from a $555,000 Friday. That will be a dynamite (on a Covid curve, natch) $25,000 per-theater average. That’s still easily the biggest per-theater average since the platform release of 1917 in late 2019 and (if you count it) the $156,000 two-theater roadshow play for Jay and Silent Bob Reboot in early 2020. The Timothée Chalamet/Benicio Del Toro/Jeffrey Wright flick scored the third-biggest limited release (under 600 theaters) of 2021, behind Titane ($1.36 million in 562 theaters), Meet the Blacks 2 ($2.9 million in 539 theaters) and Pig ($3.2 million in 588 theaters).
This doesn’t mean the film, also co-starring Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Léa Seydoux, Edward Nortion and Liev Schreiber (among others), is going to be a mainstream hit when it goes wide next weekend (alongside Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho courtesy of Focus Features). But its impressive per-theater average (my 12:30 Century City showing was pretty packed) shows that A) going limited rather than racing out to 350-750 theaters can still work even without the Arclight Hollywood and B) concerns online that Disney was essentially burying the film were arguably unfounded. Or, if they were, they A) did a bad job or B) fans and interested moviegoers found it anyway. This’ll buy the aggressively quirky (it almost plays like Anderson spoofing himself) film one week of good press and a spot in the pandemic-era record books.
In other newbie weekend news, Disney opened the 20th Century acquisition Ron Gone Wrong this weekend as well, with the under-the-radar (but relatively well-reviewed) toon earning $7.3 million over the Fri-Sun debut. Directed by Sarah Smith and J.P. Vine, the original, non-IP animated feature, about a socially awkward young man who receives a robot that’s an all-in-one “best friend,” is going to earn around $7 million for the weekend. That’s frankly almost “good” considering the Covid-specific circumstances and the extent to which original animated films had been struggling even before the pandemic (hence partially why Sony Animation’s Vivo and The Mitchells Vs. the Machines ended up at Netflix). My younger kids wanted to see this one (but not enough to drive an hour each way to a presser) so I’ll probably be taking them this afternoon.
In weekend holdover news, Halloween Kills placed second behind Dune ($40.1 million) with $14.5 million in its second Fri-Sun frame. That’s an unsurprising 71% tumble from its $49 million opening weekend. Yes, some of that can be chalked up to Peacock availability, but the last Halloween was pretty damn frontloaded too ($159 million from a $76 million debut), so this less-beloved offering was always going to be far more of a “for the fans” sequel. It’s still a $20 million slasher flick which has earned $91 million worldwide. The $73 million domestic cume puts it past The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It ($64 million) to make it the biggest R-rated release since Bad Boys For Life ($204 million) in January 2020. It’ll still probably crawl to $100 million domestic, which is more than good enough.
No Time to Die earned another $11.59 million (-51%) third-weekend gross. That’ll give the 25th official James Bond movie a $119 million 17-day cume, with expectations now closer to $155 million than $185 million for a domestic finish. That Dune is actually opening halfway decently is not great for Bond in North America, but 007 is rocking it overseas with another $33 million for a $326 million foreign gross and $525 million global cume. It’s already the second-biggest Hollywood release of 2021 (behind F9’s $716 million finish), and it’ll end up well over Casino Royale ($600 million in 2006) to become the third-biggest 007 movie ever behind Spectre ($881 million) and Skyfall ($1.1 billion). but I’m guessing James Bond 26 will cost closer to $200 million than $250 million and won’t open amid a global pandemic.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage earned another $9.1 million (-45%) in its fourth weekend and $181.8 million 24-day total. It’s past F9 ($173 million) and just under Black Widow ($183 million). It’ll crawl to $200 million by the end, which would have been fine for a sequel to the $213.5 million-grossing Venom even in non-Covid circumstances. The $110 million sequel earned another $38 million overseas for a whopping $352 million global cume. A likely sans-China global cume of around $450-$500 million seemingly in the cards. I don’t know if it’ll play in China, where Venom earned a ridiculous $269 million in 2018 toward a $854 million cume. But it’s going to earn pretty-close-to-Venom grosses everywhere else. Venom 3 is an absolute certainty, so now we’ll just see if Ghostbusters: Afterlife (November 19) can keep Sony on a year-end roll.
MGM’s The Addams Family 2 earned another $4.11 million (-42%) in weekend four for a $48.1 million 24-day total. Not bad for a sequel that was always going to make much less than its predecessor. 20th Century’s The Last Duel grossed $2.1 million (-57%) in its second weekend, with grown-ups flocking to Dune, Halloween Kills or No Time to Die over the acclaimed but non-escapist Ridley Scott medieval epic. Cue a $8.5 million domestic and $17 million worldwide cume for the $100 million Matt Damon/Adam Driver/Jodie Comer/Ben Affleck flick, as one of the best movies of the year is likely the biggest bomb of the year too. Shang-Chi will gross $2 million (-41%) on weekend eight for a $221 million domestic cume, insuring that 2021 will have at least one $220 million-plus grosser.