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Sony’s comic book movie Venom devoured a massive $32.8 million at the Friday box office for a projected $80 million domestic debut, well ahead of expectations and easily delivering an October record. The studio remains more conservative, suggesting $70 million-plus.
Also singing loudly is Warner Bros.’ A Star Is Born, which grossed $15.8 million on Friday for a projected $43 million-$44 million debut, an impressive start for an R-rated, adult-skewing fall title. In addition to directing, Bradley Cooper stars opposite Lady Gaga in the critically acclaimed film.
Thanks to the very different pair of films, the first weekend of October will set records, both in terms of biggest opening and overall revenue. Until now, the top October domestic debut of all time belonged to Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, which blasted off with $55.7 million in 2013, not adjusted for inflation.
Venom, starring Tom Hardy as the Marvel antihero, is an enormous victory for Sony’s film studio, led by Tom Rothman, as it tries to build a stable of superhero pics beyond the marquee Spider-Man movies. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, Venom co-stars Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze and Reid Scott.
Fending off withering reviews, Venom is on course to boast the No. 7 opening of the year to date as it comes in ahead of this summer’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, which debuted to $75 million for Marvel and Disney.
The fanboy-driven Venom earned a B+ CinemaScore, while its Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score is a lowly 31 percent. However, the Rotten Tomatoes audience rating is 89 percent.
In addition to being embraced by critics, the female-fueled A Star Is Born earned a glowing A CinemaScore on top of its 91 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating. The music-infused romantic drama marks Cooper’s directorial debut, as well as Lady Gaga’s acting debut in a lead role.
Costing a relatively modest $40 million to produce, A Star Is Born is the fourth adaptation of the classic tale of a tortured, hard-drinking celebrity, in this case, a country-western star, who falls in love with a woman on the brink of fame.
The month of October has never been viewed as a corridor for mega-openings; rather, films — and especially adult-skewing titles and awards contenders such as A Star Is Born — can enjoy a long run.
In 2014, the adult-fueled thriller Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, opened to $37.5 million over the Oct. 3-5 weekend on its way to grossing $167.8 million domestically. A wild card in the case of A Star Is Born are younger Lady Gaga fans, dubbed “Little Monsters.”
Cooper’s movie is hardly the other new film hoping to entice awards voters. Another round of fall festival titles open at the specialty box office this weekend, including Fox 2000’s police shooting drama The Hate U Give, starring Amandla Stenberg as a young girl who witnesses a police shooting in George Tillman Jr.’s adaptation of Angie Thomas’ best-seller. The critically acclaimed film is debuting in 36 cinemas, and is projected to gross an estimated $600,000 for the weekend, putting its screen average at just under $17,000.
Oct. 5, 12 p.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Oct. 6, 7:30 a.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates and Friday grosses.
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