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Once again proving a movie can do heroic business any month of the year, Sony’s comic book movie Venom devoured a massive $80 million from 4,250 theaters in its domestic opening, easily the best showing ever for an October title.
Overseas, Venom, starring Tom Hardy as the Marvel antihero, soared to $125.2 million from 58 markets for a global bow of $205.2 million, also an October best. South Korea turned in $16.3 million, followed by Russia with a stellar $13.6 million.
In a second victory, Warner Bros.’ critical darling A Star Is Born likewise came in ahead of expectations, collecting $42.6 million domestically from 3,686 cinemas. Offshore, the music-infused romantic drama started off with a more modest $14 million from its first 31 territories for a worldwide launch of $56.6 million. The U.K. led with $5.3 million.
The combined power of the two very different movies drove total North American revenue to an all-time high of roughly $174 million for the month of October. And, until now, the top October opening had belonged to Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, which blasted off with $55.7 million in 2013, not adjusted for inflation.
Venom, fueled by fanboys and an ethnically diverse audience, as well as younger moviegoers, impressed in fending off withering reviews (its Rotten Tomatoes score is 31 percent, compared to 91 percent for A Star Is Born). On top of making October history, it nabbed the seventh-best launch of the year so far upon besting fellow superhero pic Ant-Man and the Wasp, which opened to $75 million this summer.
The $100 million movie 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 — also part monster pic — co-stars Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze and Reid Scott. Nearly half the audience was under the age of 25, while as much as 66 percent of ticket buyers were male. Those showing up gave Venom high marks, according to PostTrak, in addition to a B+ CinemaScore.
“One of the great things here is that there isn’t another superhero film [Aquaman] until Christmas,” says Adrian Smith, Sony’s domestic distribution chief. “The movie plays great and audiences love it.”
It’s no wonder why Rothman and his team are intent on trying to compete with the likes of Marvel Studios: Superhero titles now claim five of the top 10 spots on the 2018 chart, and six if including Incredibles 2. In February, Marvel and Disney’s Black Panther opened to a massive $202 million domestically, a number usually reserved for summer.
Venom‘s strong opening overseas is especially impressive considering it hasn’t yet opened in China, where giant media company Tencent recently took a major stake in the pic.
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 rock star (Cooper) — who falls in love with a singer on the brink of fame (Gaga). Live Nation Productions is a partner on the R-rated film.
More than 85 percent of the audience was over the age of 25, while femmes made up 66 percent of ticket buyers. A large swath of the audience was between the ages of 25 and 34.
“Lady Gaga fans turned out in a big way. It was evident throughout the weekend. Clearly, she can carry a movie, and clearly, Bradley can direct and sing,” says Warners distribution chief Jeff Goldstein, adding that the pic’s soundtrack, released last week, is No. 1 on iTunes, while “Shallow” is the No. 1 song.
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.
Among holdovers, Warners’ family film Smallfoot placed third in its second outing, declining a slim 35 percent to $14.9 million for a domestic total of $42.8 million. The animated pic was followed by the Tiffany Haddish-Kevin Hart comedy Night School, which slipped 55 percent its is sophomore outing to $12.3 million for a 10-day North American cume of $46.8 million. Globally, the film has grossed $58.7 million.
Amblin and Universal’s The House With a Clock In its Walls rounded out the top five with $7.3 million in its third weekend for a domestic total of $55.1 million and $87.4 million worldwide.
Other highlights of the weekend: Paul Feig and Lionsgate’s sleeper hit A Simple Favor ended Sunday with a domestic total of nearly $50 million and $76.4 million globally. Lows included Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9, tumbling 80 percent in its third outing for a domestic total of $6 million as it loses theaters.
A Star Is Born wasn’t the only new film hoping to entice awards voters. Another round of fall festival titles opened 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 movie, which opened in 36 cinemas, earned an estimated $500,000 for a screen average of $13,885.
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