‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ Had the Best Opening Since ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’

Not only did the sequel have the best opening-weekend attendance of the last two years, but it also out-performed the first Venom.
Venom Let There Be Carnage

Welcome to our weekly box office report, which we do a little differently. Rather than focusing on the money, FSR senior editor Christopher Campbell is more interested in the estimated attendance — or number of tickets sold. Because the value of money changes over the years, but the value of actual moviegoers remains the same. This week, we look at the opening box office attendance numbers for Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Venom 2), The Addams Family 2, and The Many Saints of Newark.

Time apparently reset when the pandemic began. For the movie business anyway. Will things ever go back to normal, or are we in a new era for stuff like box office figures? With every new blockbuster released in theaters, Hollywood hopes attendance will increase. For the most part, we have seen new releases breaking previous COVID-19 era records. Venom 2 — officially titled Venom: Let There Be Carnage — however, is the first big tentpole release to set a new franchise box office record as well.

The sequel opened with a domestic gross of $90.1 million. That equates to around 9.8 million tickets sold in the US and Canada and is the best debut since 2019. The original Venom, breaking records of its own, debuted in October 2018 with a lower gross amount. And a smaller opening weekend crowd: 8.8 million. Of course, nobody expected the first movie to be so popular, even after those first few days, but it had monstrous legs. It was the rare comic book movie that wasn’t extremely front-loaded in ticket sales.

Venom 2 Box Office vs. Other Marvel Movies

Venom 2 is only the second installment of “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe,” but there are a number of other franchises worth comparison. Obviously, having the best opening of the year, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a bigger box office hit than Marvel’s two 2021 outings, Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. If Venom 2 was officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’d place 19th, just barely behind Doctor Strange. So that’s seven MCU releases (more than a quarter) it’s beaten.

As for other Marvel movie series, Venom: Let There Be Carnage performed better than The Amazing Spider-Man but not its sequel. And it came nowhere near the openings of the Sam Raimi trilogy, including the Venom-focused Spider-Man 3. Venom 2 also had a greater opening than all the Fantastic Fours, Punishers, Ghost Riders, Blades, DaredevilElektras, and one-third of the X-MenWolverineDeadpools. But not the non-MCU Hulk movie.

Venom 2 Box Office vs. Expectations

Surely after the success of the first Venom, the industry expected the sequel to do very well, right? Well, we are still in the midst of a pandemic with variants killing people by the hundreds of thousands. In early September, Box Office Pro forecast an opening gross between $45 million and $65 million for Venom 2. The site claimed that buzz on Let There Be Carnage was not great. But last week, Box Office Pro upped their prediction to $71 million — within a potential range of $60 million to $80 million.

One thing that Box Office Pro pointed out that I have to acknowledge is that Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a relatively short movie. Well, we knew that, but they recognized that this means movie theaters could schedule more showings of the sequel than they could of many other blockbusters coming out these days (the opposite will be true next week for the very long No Time to Die, for instance). The site also notes Venom 2‘s Thursday night preview box office was not the year’s best (Black Widow‘s was), yet its weekend was.

Critics vs. Audience

Some of the increase in expectations might have had to do with Venom 2 garnering better reviews (here’s our own). While critics mostly panned the original Venom (30% on Rotten Tomatoes, 35 on Metacritic), the sequel has fared a little better (59% on Rotten Tomatoes, 47 on Metacritic). And last week, the Rotten Tomatoes number was higher, as the movie debuted on the aggregate at a fresh 69%. That seemed rather promising at the time, especially given some reviewers touted Venom 2 as better than Venom 1.

Non-professional moviegoers like the sequel even more. As of this writing, the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is 81% for Venom and 85% for Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The user score for both movies is 6.3 on Metacritic, and the IMDb user rating for both movies is 6.7. Strangely, Cinemascore has not posted a grade for Venom 2. They polled opening night moviegoers for the first movie, which resulted in a B+ grade. I wouldn’t be surprised if Venom: Let There Be Carnage has a higher grade, given its ending.

Will the Sequel Have Legs?

While we’re comparing Venom: Let There Be Carnage to the first Venom, we have to go back to the latter’s legs. That movie had the kind of staying power that we just don’t usually see with sequels. And there’s not a lot of repeat business during the pandemic still for any kind of movie. Also, on top of comic book fans rushing out to see the fight between Venom and Carnage, there were also whispers that the ending and post-credits scene of Venom 2 is game-changing. People wanted to see for themselves before being spoiled.

In the sequel’s favor, Venom: Let There Be Carnage has only been available in theaters — officially and legally, anyway. This being a Sony title, there is no associated streaming service. However, the studio made a deal with Netflix earlier this year. All Sony titles released starting in 2022 head to that platform. The press release noted the inclusion of future Venom movies but it’s unclear if this counts since it’s a 2021 release. After Netflix, those titles head to Disney outlets. As for VOD, Venom 2 looks to be unavailable in digital form until mid-to-late November. So we can expect its attendance to thrive for a number of weeks.

The Addams Family 2 and The Many Saints of Newark Box Office

Two other major releases hit theaters over the weekend, and unlike Venom: Let There Be Carnage, both were also available on the small screen simultaneous with the big. The Addams Family 2, an animated sequel adapted from the iconic Charles Addams comic strip, grossed $17.3 million for a crowd of 1.9 million. Probably many more, actually, since many attendees were children at lower-price tickets. That’s a lot less than the 3.3 million or so who went to see the first animated Addams Family. But the new movie released day-and-date on digital (albeit for a $19.99 rental). That means many fans could and likely did watch it at home.

Similarly, or more easily for that matter, The Many Saints of Newark was immediately available to HBO Max subscribers at the same time as the feature arrived in theaters. At no extra cost. The prequel to the HBO drama series The Sopranos was possibly best-suited on the small screen for fans of the cable TV series. But plenty of people rejected the idea of it being just a TV movie. And they went to see it in the theater. The Many Saints of Newark grossed $4.7 million. That’s roughly half a million people in attendance. Compare the number to the 11.9 million people who tuned in to watch the final episode of The Sopranos in 2007.

The Rest

In other box office news, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings continued its status as the domestic box office champ of 2021 (so far) and crossed the $200 million mark. The acclaimed festival hit Titane almost broke through the top 10 in limited release for a debut crowd of about 56,000. Meanwhile, actually showing in the top 10 are two relative unknowns. In ninth place is the quickly produced Indian-Pakistani comedy sequel Chal Mera Putt 3, with ticket sales of 70,000. And in 10th place is the faith-based music documentary The Jesus Music, which drew a crowd of about 60,000.

Box Office Attendance for October 1 - October 3, 2021

RankMovie TitleOpening Weekend AttendancePer-Screen Attendance Total Domestic AttendanceStudio
1Venom: Let There Be Carnage9.8 million2,3269.8 millionSony Pictures Entertainment
2The Addams Family 21.9 million4501.9 millionUnited Artists Releasing
3Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings0.7 million19322.5 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
4The Many Saints of Newark0.5 million1600.5 millionWarner Bros.
5Dear Evan Hansen0.27 million801.3 millionUniversal Pictures
6Free Guy0.25 million9712.8 million20th Century Studios
7Candyman0.13 million796.4 millionUniversal Pictures
8Jungle Cruise0.08 million5612.7 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
9Chal Mera Putt 30.07 million7810.1 million-
10The Jesus Music0.06 million2410.1 million-

*Initially box office grosses are estimated and then are later updated for actual figures.

** Ticket sales and attendance figures are determined with each year’s average ticket prices. Currently, for 2021, that average is $9.16.

All box office gross figures are sourced from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, and Box Office Pro unless otherwise stated.

Christopher Campbell: Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.