Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) in Marvel Studios' 'Eternals'. (Photo: Sophie Mutevelian. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

In a hopeful sign that the theatrical market is getting back on track, Eternals posted the fourth largest opening of the pandemic-era last weekend, behind only Black Widow, Godzilla vs. Kong and Fast & Furious 9.

Bowing on $5.92 million from 695 screens, the Disney/Marvel title was overwhelmingly the main choice of cinemagoers across the country, capturing a 58 per cent market share.

Directed by Chloe Zhao, the film follows a group of immortal aliens who have protected the Earth since the dawn of man, and who forced to reunite in order to defeat their evil counterparts, the Deviants. The ensemble cast includes Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee, Harish Patel, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie.

In the US/Canada, Eternals opened on $US91 million. Australia was the fifth largest market for the film internationally behind Korea, UK, France and Mexico, with worldwide takings tallying $US161.7 million. It is a decent result given its tepid response from critics; the film is the worst reviewed in the MCU, with only a 48 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The result for Eternals locally is also encouraging ahead of the highly-anticipated release of No Time To Die next week, for which many exhibitors are reporting very healthy pre-sales.

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell tells IF excitement is building among his audience in regional NSW and Queensland for the Bond film, particularly middle-aged and older demographics.

Eternals was certainly a shot in the arm, although the performance was quite different at different regional sites. It is a start, but we need more than one movie to get back to some sort of box office health – and hopefully No Time to Die is the second tier in that layering of product that we need.”

Indeed, the market isn’t back to full health yet, particularly in Melbourne where cinemas have only been back open for a week and a half.

“It was certainly a bigger weekend for us than the prior weekend, with Eternals by far and away the highest-grossing title,” Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard tells IF.

“It is clear though that the audience in Victoria hasn’t returned to any sort of normality yet, considering our Victorian market share was around normal, but our national market share was substantially down. Our share on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was well up on normal too, so perhaps some of the Eternals audience is still catching up.” 

Carlton’s Cinema Nova saw trade increase overall, despite adding only two new titles, cookery documentary Julia and anniversary sessions of Chopper. In particular, the upscale venue saw considerable week-on-week increases for Nitram, The Last Duel, Roadrunner and Shiva Baby.

However, CEO Kristian Connelly notes it is hard for some titles to cut through at the moment.

“As has been observed overseas, and as is the case with the Marvel blockbusters in the multiplexes, audiences are being overwhelmingly drawn to the most anticipated releases. Those releases that don’t have the critical acclaim of Nitram, the outré appeal of Lamb or Shiva Baby, or the star power of Last Duel or Pig are struggling to be discovered by audiences.”

Overall, the top 20 films last weekend mustered $9.8 million, up 74 per cent on the previous, according to Numero.

While Eternals performed strongly, no other title was able to crack $1 million.

With another Marvel film entering the market, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tumbled 58 per cent to take $682,747 in its 10th frame, advancing to $16.2 million.

Fellow Disney title Ron’s Gone Wrong appears to be slowly finding its audience, up 12 per cent on its opening with a result of $553,958, seeing it climb to $1.2 million.

With Halloween behind us, Halloween Kills fell 68 per cent to $519,241, taking its cume to $2.2 million.

Diwali release Sooryavanshi opened strongly for Mindblowing Films, with the action title – the fourth in the Cop Universe franchise – grossing an impressive $509,395 from just 100 screens.

Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark didn’t cause much of a stir for Warner Bros., opening on $397,643 from 233 screens. The film, which cost $US50 million to make, has made just $US12.3 million worldwide. However, in the US/Canada it premiered day-and-date on HBO Max, where it was reportedly a success.

Another Diwali release, Annaatthe, starring Rajinikanth, opened to $274,595 from 70 screens for Southern Star.

Now into its third week, The Last Duel fell 68 per cent for Disney with earnings of $273,357, advancing its result to $2.3 million.

Paw Patrol: The Movie continues to have legs, adding another $178,161 in its eighth weekend – up 15 per cent on the previous. The Paramount animation now sits on $3.4 million overall.

Rounding out the top 10 was Punjabi-language romantic comedy Paani Ch Madhaani, which opened to $121,324 from 67 screens.

Among the Australian films in release, Nitram gathered a further $33,208 in its sixth frame to move to $385,337, while the Chopper 20th anniversary re-release – which has just made its way to NSW and Victorian cinemas – collected $24,168, advancing to $80,504.

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