Features and Columns · Movies

‘Venom’ Has Legs

Sony’s latest Marvel movie had one of the superhero genre’s best box office holds.
Venom Smile
Columbia Pictures
By  · Published on October 15th, 2018

As if last weekend’s record-breaking opening wasn’t enough to prove Sony’s new Marvel-verse franchise is off to a great start, Venom remained on top its second weekend with an impressive hold. The comic book antihero movie was number one at the box office, still triumphing over fellow sophomore-weekender A Star is Born while also defeating all newcomers, including disappointing debuts for First Man, Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, and Bad Times at the El Royale.

Venom, which drew in another 4 million moviegoers in North America over the weekend, was the only one of the major players to exceed its forecast figure from Box Office Pro last week. And although A Star is Born continues to impress with only a 33.7% drop in attendance from its debut last weekend, Venom is not too shabby when it comes to staying power. Its ticket sales were only 56.4% down from its opening. That’s not phenomenal, but it is pretty good and definitely surprising.

Typically, when a movie like Venom receives negative reviews and a relatively poor CinemaScore grade, their box office performance declines significantly in the second weekend. Of course, a lot of comic book movies are so frontloaded that their sophomore slump can only be severe. Spider-Man 3, the last movie to feature the Venom character, had a huge opening, so its 61.5% drop wasn’t a shock, except when you compare it to it two predecessors, which dipped only 37.8% and 48.7%, respectively.

Venom held better than the most recent Spider-Man movie, too. Last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming fell 62.2% in its second weekend. Before that, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 similarly fell 61.2%, while its precursor, The Amazing Spider-Man, was fairly successful in its hold with just a 44.2% decline back in 2012. Compared to the most recent movie to feature Spider-Man, this year’s epic Avengers: Infinity War, Venom had close to its second-weekend decline percentage of 55.5%.

Most of the other Marvel-based movies out this year had more significant drops. Deadpool 2 saw attendance fall 65.4% in its second weekend. Ant-Man and the Wasp, which opened just below the amount of Venom‘s debut, fell 61.6%. Black Panther held on with a mere 44.7% drop in ticket sales its second weekend, but that’s Black Panther. Other 2018 superhero movies were more comparable including Incredibles 2, just barely better at an even 56%, and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, which dropped 54.1%.

Venom‘s holding power is better than that of the following recent Marvel and DC movies: Ant-Man (56.5%), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (56.6%),  Logan (56.9%), Thor: The Dark World (57.3%), Deadpool (57.4%), Iron Man 3 (58.4%), Avengers: Age of Ultron (59.4%), Captain America: Civil War (59.5%), The Wolverine (59.9%), X-Men: Days of Future Past (64.2%), Man of Steel (64.6%), X-Men: Apocalypse (65.3%), Suicide Squad (67.4%), Fantastic Four (68.2%), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (69%), and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (69.1%). The only movies not already mentioned with better legs are the two Guardians of the Galaxy installments, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Doctor Strange.

The only movies among the bunch with lower Rotten Tomatoes scores are Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman, and most of them have equal or better CinemaScore grades. So what does it mean that Venom is doing better than it should in two weeks given its lack of favor and respectability? Aside from this being one for the fans, not the critics, Sony’s antihero showcase could be generating word of mouth for some factor. Tom Hardy’s weird performance? I actually think it’s just the only movie out that kids of a certain age want to see — much more than another Goosebumps, that’s for sure.

As for A Star is Born, which sold another 3.2 million tickets in its second weekend, that film definitely just has strong buzz. Not all Oscar buzz, either. The musical remake is a hit with crowds who don’t care if it’s going to be an awards contender or not. The soundtrack is a great success. The performances are blowing people away. This is a pop movie for grown-ups, and it’s going to keep on running through the season.

Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic, First Man, sadly isn’t resonating as much with adult audiences, having drawn just 1.8 million people in its opening weekend. Maybe Americans weren’t happy about the omission of the flag erection. Perhaps audiences just don’t care about white man space program biopics anymore, since Hidden Figures debuted stronger with 2.6 million tickets sold in its first wide weekend.

Another awards season hopeful opened over the weekend very strongly. Beautiful Boy, which despite not having spectacular reviews for a contender of its kind is likely drawing audiences for its raved about performances by Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell. The addiction drama scored the weekend’s best per-screen average with its 24,800 tickets sold at just four locations. We’ll see if it stays strong in wider release.

Finally, new release Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, came very close to the top 10 in its debut despite only playing on 673 screens. The drama, about the convicted abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, sold about 132,000 tickets, which isn’t too bad considering it was originally planned to be a TV movie. But it’s not terribly surprising given that Gosnell had one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns of all time, via IndieGoGo.

Here are the weekend’s top 20 titles by the number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Venom – 4 million (16.1 million)
2. A Star is Born – 3.2 million (10.7 million)
3. First Man – 1.81 million (1.8 million)
4. Goosebumps 2 – 1.79 million (1.8 million)
5. Smallfoot – 1 million (6.5 million)
6. Night School – 0.9 million (6.7 million)
7. Bad Times at the El Royale – 0.8 million (0.8 million)
8. The House With a Clock In Its Walls – 0.4 million (7 million)
9. The Hate U Give – 0.2 million (0.3 million)
10.The Nun – 0.15 million (13.1 million)
11. A Simple Favor – 0.15 million (5.9 million)
12. Gosnell – 0.13 million (0.1 million)
13. Crazy Rich Asians – 0.12 million (19.4 million)
14. Colette – 0.11 million (0.3 million)
15. The Old Man & the Gun – 0.1 million (0.2 million)
16. Free Solo – 0.1 million (0.2 million)
17. Hell Fest – 0.07 million (1.2 million)
18. Andhadlun – 0.03 million (0.08 million)
19. The Sisters Brothers – 0.03 million (0.1 million)
20. Beautiful Boy – 0.02 million (0.02 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.