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A New Movie Franchise is Born as ‘Venom’ Breaks Box Office Records

Sony’s latest comic book movie is now October’s biggest release ever.
Sony Pictures
By  · Published on October 8th, 2018

Fans of the character teased at the end of Venom can now rest easy. Unlike all the villains referenced in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this guy will surely return in a sequel. Unless having a record-breaking movie that more than doubled initial projections isn’t enough for Sony to see the relatively cheaply budgeted Venom as a franchise starter. Sure, October still doesn’t have its first $100 million opener, but Venom‘s estimated $80 million debut is now the month’s top domestic earner.

And that goes for attendance, as well. Venom sold about 8.6 million tickets over the weekend, beating previous record holder Scary Movie 3 — released 15 years ago this month — by more than half a million people. The original expectation didn’t see this coming, as Box Office Pro’s first long-range tracking report in early August put the attendance at just 4.3 million. BOP revised their prediction a week later, and even then they had it at just 6.9 million. And that was still the guess last week. The respective gross would have been October’s biggest, but the number of tickets sold would not have been.

Let’s put Venom‘s debut into context. Did more people in North America see the Marvel-associated comic book movie than The Amazing Spider-Man 2? No, but Venom did beat the first Amazing Spider-Man by more than half a million tickets. And it beat Sony’s own Ghost Rider by more than a million tickets, and that was given a sequel. Venom also had a bigger domestic opening than Marvel Cinematic Universe solo series debuts Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Incredible Hulk, and Ant-Man. It even topped one of the MCU sequels: this year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp.

As far as comic book antihero movies go, Venom‘s opening pales significantly compared to Logan and the two Deadpool installments. Some fans will see that as evidence that Venom should have been rated R. Who knows? The Predator sure didn’t make a strong case for R being lucrative. Venom still outsold The Wolverine, and all Hellboy, Blade, and Punisher movies, as well as another movie based on a Todd McFarlane creation, Spawn. It opened bigger than Catwoman. And even Batman Begins. And Watchmen. And the last X-Men movie.

Not that it should matter to Sony’s bank account, especially with Venom grossing another $125 million overseas already, but do people actually like the movie? Will they spread positive word of mouth? More importantly, will the people who saw Venom be back for a sequel and for the studio’s other planned Marvel antihero projects (Morbius, Nightwatch, Silk, Kraven the Hunter, etc.)? Venom earned a ‘B+’ grade from first-night moviegoers via CinemaScore polling. That’s the same as Amazing Spider-Man 2, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the last movie to feature Venom, Spider-Man 3.

And the critics tore Venom apart, though it almost seems like they were just expecting to hate this thing from the start, even if only for its lack of Spider-Man. Venom‘s 31% score on Rotten Tomatoes is a lot lower than those of hated comic book movies Spider-Man 3 (63%), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (52%), X-Men: The Last Stand (58%), X-Men: Apocalypse (48%), and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (37%). At least its reviews are more positive than both the 2005 and 2015 Fantastic Four movies (27% and 9%, respectively) — however, not the Roger Corman one from 1994 (38%). Venom 2 will need to improve its quality if this new franchise is going to last.

Speaking of the birth of entertainment successes, A Star is Born did pretty well itself opposite the comic book movie. Despite being the third remake of a classic film, Bradley Cooper’s feature directorial debut starring him and Lady Gaga drew in 4.6 million people over the weekend, taking the 21st spot on the October attendance record chart. If classified as a musical (Box Office doesn’t apparently consider it such), A Star is Born would have the fourth-best opening of the genre, excluding animated features, between Enchanted and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

So, never mind that A Star is Born underperformed compared to Box Office Pro’s prediction last week of about 5.2 million tickets sold. They just aimed a little too high after initially forecasting about 3.2 million back in August. Anyway, the movie will have great legs, not only because it’s going to have Oscar buzz over the next few months but because its CinemaScore grade (‘A’) and reviews (90% Rotten Tomatoes score) are both very high. A Star is Born won’t be spawning any sequels, but this is a great start to Cooper’s directorial career and for Lady Gaga as a lead actress.

In other box office news from the weekend, YA drama The Hate U Give and the documentary Studio 54 debuted in limited release with strong per-screen averages, 1500 and 1600, respectively. Venom had the best average, however. Also strong in the department was Free Solo, which sold another 60,000 tickets across 41 locations and nearly cracked the top 10. Documentaries are still having a great year.

Here are the weekend’s top 15 titles by the number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Venom – 8.6 million (8.6 million)
2. A Star is Born – 4.6 million (4.7 million)
3. Smallfoot – 1.5 million (4.5 million)
4. Night School – 1.3 million (5 million)
5. The House With a Clock In Its Walls – 0.8 million (5.9 million)
6. A Simple Favor – 0.4 million (5.2 million)
7. The Nun – 0.29 million (12.1 million)
8. Crazy Rich Asians – 0.23 million (18 million)
9. Hell Fest – 0.22 million (0.9 million)
10. The Predator – 0.1 million (5.3 million)
11. White Boy Rick – 0.064 million (2.5 million)
12. Free Solo – 0.06 million (0.1 million)
13. The Hate U Give – 0.055 million (0.06 million)
14. Colette – 0.053 million (0.1 million)
15. Peppermint – 0.051 million (3.7 million)

All non-forecast box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

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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.