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Costumed fans wait ahead of the premiere for the film "Eternals" in Los Angeles, California on Oct. 18, 2021.

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) — “Eternals” soared to the top of the weekend box office chart, buoyed by mania for all things Marvel. But its $71 million debut fell just short of projections, which had the superhero film debuting to $75 million. That’s a sign, perhaps, that the iffy reviews muted “Eternals’” results or a signal that the underlying intellectual property, the story of a group of god-like extraterrestrials, didn’t have the resonance of other comic book adaptations. Marvel has successfully introduced lesser-known heroes, such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, to movie fans and spawned successful franchises with them, but that series got a lift from critics and also debuted in a time before anyone had ever heard of Covid. So, a much different world order.

“Eternals” still managed to score the fourth-best opening weekend for any movie during the pandemic era, sliding in behind Marvel’s own “Black Widow” ($80.3 million) and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” ($75.3 million) as well as “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” ($90 million), which was made by Sony but based on a Marvel comic creation. It’s an impressive number — and any other studio or feature would be thrilled to have a launch of that size — but for a Marvel venture it’s hard to not view it as falling short of sky-high expectations. Heavy the head that wears the box office crown and all that. Internationally, “Eternals” took in $90.7 million, bringing its global haul to $161.7 million.

“Eternals” is directed by Chloe Zhao, fresh of the Oscar-winning “Nomadland,” but reviewers griped that the film in long on exposition and light on entertainment. It has the ignominious distinction of being the only Marvel movie to draw a “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 49% of reviews marked as positive. Audiences were also lukewarm on what Zhao cooked up, giving the film a so-so “B” CinemaScore.

“Dune,” Warner Bros. and Legendary’s adaption of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel, came in second with $7.6 million, pushing its domestic haul to $83.9 million. A sequel to the film was officially greenlit days after the first entry in the Dune-verse opened in theaters. Denis Villeneuve directs a cast that includes Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem, Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson.

MGM and United Artist Releasing’s “No Time to Die” nabbed third place with $6.2 million, which pushes the spy film’s total to $143.1 million. The film, which marks Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007, will be available to rent on digital platforms next week, just 31 days after it opened in cinemas.

Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” took fourth position on the charts, with $4.5 million. The symbiote sequel has earned $197 million stateside.

20th Century Studios’ animated adventure “Ron’s Gone Wrong” rounds out the top five, earning $3.6 million. That takes its domestic haul to a doleful $17.6 million.

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