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On The Beat: COVID still holding some back from box office
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ON THE BEAT

On The Beat: COVID still holding some back from box office

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Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott, the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award, has written about arts and entertainment for Lincoln newspapers since 1985, reviewing thousands of movies and concerts and hundreds of art exhibitions.

The film industry is making more strides as it comes back from a dormant pandemic, with 'No Time to Die' becoming the latest hit at the box office. Cheddar News caught up with Daniel Loria, the Editorial Director at BoxOffice Pro to discuss the film's latest success as well as the current state and future of the box office.

Movies are back -- sort of.

That’s the very uncertain, preliminary analysis of the first two weekends of what will be the biggest movie month since the coronavirus pandemic shut down theaters in March 2020.

“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” had a surprising $90 million opening weekend two weeks ago, triggering a wave of industry optimism that, following the success of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” multiplexes would be filled by the “tentpole” movie set for October and early November.

Then came “No Time To Die,” which did only $56 million last weekend, tens of millions below the projections of industry experts.

So why did “Venom” do so well and “No Time To Die” disappoint?

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That’s where COVID comes into the equation. At its simplest, the audience for the James Bond picture is older than that for “Venom” and “Shang-Chi,” and the over-35 crowd isn’t coming out in large numbers for movies, concerts or any other entertainment.

The near three-hour running time of “No Time To Die” didn’t help box office receipts either, as it reduces the number of times the film can be shown each day. And there’s likely some fatigue that has set in with the 007 franchise.

That’s another contrast with “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” which is just the second movie in the comic book super-villain franchise.

This weekend comes a guaranteed smash -- “Halloween Kills,” which prognosticators are saying will take in at least $40 million and more likely reach $50 million in its first three days of release.

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On the other side of the ledger, “The Last Duel,” the Ridley Scott tale of the final duel fought by French knights, is expected to open somewhere in the $10 million range -- not exactly a hit.

On Oct. 22, the sci-fi epic “Dune” opens in theaters. But it may see its box office numbers dampened because it is simultaneously opening on HBO Max. That hybrid release, which Warners Bros. has used throughout the last six months, is certain to cost the film tens of millions in theaters.

But it will also serve as a subscription magnet for Warner/AT&T-owned HBO Max and might end up being the most viewed movie of the year, even if it doesn’t break the box office bank.

The film that’s almost guaranteed to be a $100 million opener doesn’t come until Nov. 5 when “Eternals,” the Chloe Zhao-directed Marvel movie, hits theaters.

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Regardless of its quality, or whether Zhao can translate her Oscar-winning realistic filmmaking sensibility to an effects spectacle, the Marvel brand remains a sure thing, COVID or not.

All of this talk about box office, of course, has nothing to do with the quality of the movies. It never has.

Nor are the exhibition chains, like Marcus Theaters which operates all of Lincoln’s first-run commercial theaters, going to go under. They’ve survived the pandemic. But they’re still not back to normal, nor are they likely to be for months to come.

Next spring, some two years after the COVID shutdown, a run of “summer” blockbusters and, hopefully, the effective end of the pandemic, will almost certainly end the box office rollercoaster and bring movies all the way back.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com. On Twitter @KentWolgamott  

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Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott, the recipient of the 2018 Mayor’s Arts Award, has written about arts and entertainment for Lincoln newspapers since 1985, reviewing thousands of movies and concerts and hundreds of art exhibitions.

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