Prepare for Venom 3! Venom: Let There Be Carnage had the biggest U.S. box office opening of the pandemic era over the weekend, implying that a sequel is on the way — even if Sony hasn’t announced it yet.
The Venom sequel earned more than $90 million in its first weekend, far exceeding Sony’s conservative $40 million forecasts. It also outperformed Marvel cousins Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($75 million) and Black Widow ($80 million) at the box office. The premiere even outperformed the original film’s opening weekend gross of $80 million, which occurred before the entire industry collapsed.
Sony had to play a guessing game when it came to the success of Let There Be Carnage. Starting with its initial release date of Oct. 2, 2020, the studio juggled the film’s release date a half-dozen times. The film was then pushed back to June 25, 2021, then back to September 17, then September 24, and finally to October 15. Then, in an unexpected move, Sony pushed the release date forward to Oct. 1, which was when the film’s successful run began.
The massive success of Venom 2 is great news for Sony, but it’s also part of a larger trend. Both No Time to Die, the upcoming James Bond film, and Dune, one of the year’s most anticipated blockbusters, have opened overseas in recent weeks and have already grossed more than $100 million. While neither film has yet to be released in the United States, the two studio tentpoles, along with Let There Be Carnage, give reason to believe that audiences are warming to the idea of going to the movies.
Even with these encouraging signs, there are still concerns about the theatrical industry. For one thing, indie films are still in a precarious position. Titane, the top prize winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, was also released this weekend in over 500 theatres (Venom 2 was released in over 4,000 theatres for context) and grossed only $515,747. A film like Titane might have opened in three or four theatres a few years ago before gaining traction through word of mouth. NEON, the film’s distributor, made a $53 million bet on the game with Parasite. In a more aggressive comparison, Titane is now opening in a smaller number of theatres, and it may not do as well as indie-film fans would hope.
Another looming concern, at least for WarnerMedia, is how much money Dune can make at the box office in the United States after premiering for free on HBO Max subscribers. While many have claimed that simultaneous releases hurt theatrical performance — and Warner Bros. Pictures’ Sopranos spinoff film The Many Saints of Newark all but bombed this weekend with $5 million — Dune may be the best test yet of whether those claims are true. People opting out of the HBO Max option could also be a stumbling block for a proper “part two.”
While a third Venom appears to be a foregone conclusion, Eddie and his Symbiote pal may appear onscreen even sooner. Without giving anything away, the mid-credits scene in Let There Be Carnage hinted that Venom could be heading to another universe, and possibly even another heroes’ third film later this year.