It has been awhile since there’s been a superhero movie, so Sony/Tencent’s Venom based on the Marvel property arrives with enough anticipation this frame to drive its opening weekend to an estimated $160 million-$175 million global start, with the domestic box office headed toward an October opening record of $60M-$65M at 4,250 theaters plus Imax. The latter would best the month’s current record-holder, Warner Bros’ Gravity, which opened to $55.7M in 2013.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros launches its awards-season darling A Star Is Born, directed by, co-produced, co-written and starring Bradley Cooper alongside Lady Gaga in her first feature-leading role. It marks the fourth version of the movie after the 1937 William A. Wellman movie, the 1954 Judy Garland-James Mason musical, and the 1976 Barbra Streisand-Kris Kristofferson film which was a huge hit in its day, racking up $80M (unadjusted for inflation), the third-highest-grossing theatrical release that year.
Cooper’s version was shot out of a cannon during its Venice and Toronto premieres with an excellent 95% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which puts its domestic opening at $30M+ at 3,500 locations, and global at $50M+. There is a constituency in the industry who believes the country concert-rocker film could get to $40M in the U.S. and Canada, but that remains to be seen. What is certain is that older females are making a beeline for this emotional musical, and many look forward to it playing and playing (perhaps even longer at the B.O. than Venom). The young women are the question as their heat isn’t as strong as women over 25.
Even if the Rotten Tomatoes score for Venom, which hasn’t registered yet, comes in between 50%-70% fresh, the notion is that Venom can maintain a solid opening given the heat many are seeing on tracking — plus it’s a fresh superhero concept. In the U.S., the Ruben Fleischer-directed movie is trending well with Hispanic and African American audiences as well as older males in definite interest and first choice.
Some are betting that Venom bows to $70M, but that’s wild number hinging on whether the movie winds up swooning critics and mass moviegoers. Venom‘s stateside comps are more in the range of the Marvel properties Ant-Man ($57.2M), Captain America: The First Avenger ($65M) and Thor ($65.7M) when they first began their cinematic journeys. An NRG report cites that 26% of the moviegoing audience call themselves Venom fans, versus 46% for Spider-Man, 35% for Wonder Woman, and 32% for Ant-Man. Sony is projecting $55M for Venom.
Previews begin Thursday at 5 PM in the U.S. and Canada. Other hurdles impacting older male business this weekend for Venom is that it’s the first weekend of the baseball postseason, plus a UFC fight.
Overseas, Venom will sink its fangs into 59 markets, with three majors still to come (France, Japan and China; a date in the latter still TBD). Industry sources are seeing a $100M+ opening with some as high as $110M. This assumes some big bows in Asia, notably Korea where they like their Marvel.
Foreign comps to consider are Ant-Man and The Wasp, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Doctor Strange. Like-for-likes are hard to come by given two of those Marvel pics are from the Disney stable. However, Doctor Strange’s top plays outside of China were Korea, the UK, Brazil, Russia and Germany, which hews pretty closely to how Marvel superhero fare fares. Ant Man and the Wasp outside China similarly did its best business in Korea, the UK, Mexico, France and Australia. Homecoming topped out (ex-China) in Korea, the UK, Brazil, Mexico and Japan. The offshore cumes on those films are: AM&TW ($405.3M), Doctor Strange ($445M) and Homecoming ($546M).
Hardy has an overseas following largely aligned with his Chris Nolan pics, as well as The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road – the latter also raged in Korea and the UK. There’s further familiarity due to his TV roles in international favorites Peaky Blinders and Taboo.
The actor participated in Brazil Comic-Con with a live Skype from the Atlanta set of Venom to the fan event. He was also on Fantastico, Brazil’s top-rated TV show with a viewership of 15M. In London, he drove the host of Stars in Cars, Germany’s version of Carpool Karaoke, around town. In France, he took part in TF1’s Saturday evening entertainment show 50 Minutes Inside while also attending a fan event in Russia. Ahmed further appeared on the UK’s The Jonathan Ross Show.
For their international digital campaign, the Sony folks partnered with Talenthouse for a global fan art program. Artists, designers and illustrators from around the world were invited to create one-of-a-kind artwork for Venom. Thousands of entries came in, the highest number of submissions in Talenthouse history. Hardy selected five pieces of art and one of the artists was invited to meet the cast and attend the Los Angeles premiere.
Buzzfeed also hosted a Venom takeover. With Buzzfeed Tasty and Ghetto Gastro’s Jon Gray and Malcolm Livingston, members of the Michelin-star chef collective from the South Bronx, Sony created the first ever black-and-white Tasty videos featuring custom recipes for Venom donuts, cheesecake and chocolate-dipped potato-chip s’mores. The videos were released across Buzzfeed’s social channels, earning millions of views.
A Star Is Born leaped into the limelight abroad at the Venice Film Festival, playing out of competition in late August to deafening response before heading to Toronto. Warner Bros is doing a staggered offshore release, with just 31 markets taking the stage this session for 45% of the international marketplace. They include France on Wednesday, followed by Germany and Russia on Thursday and the UK and Spain on Friday. Key upcoming dates throughout October include Korea on the 9th, then Italy, Brazil and Mexico the 11th and 12th, and Australia on the 18th. China is still to be determined.
The film skews female, although there is something here for adult males if not the fanboy crowd that will be heading out to Venom. That film may take a bite out of A Star Is Born and tone down some of the noise in the first weekend. Rivals, who see it as a difficult one to assess given the staggered play, put its debut in the $20M ballpark.
But, riding great reviews and word of mouth, plus the undeniable global stardom of Gaga and what promises to be a powerhouse soundtrack, A Star Is Born is destined for glory. The multi-award winning musician positively lit up the Lido when she and Cooper came to Venice, and that sort of reception captured by the world’s media can be worth its weight in gold. Cooper and Gaga were in London last week for a premiere, and also visited The Graham Norton Show for its current season opener. Cooper further visited the San Sebastian Film Festival and was at the Paris premiere on Monday night.
Cooper is not without his host of offshore fans. Originally known for The Hangover comedies, he’s since built a serious CV with four Oscar nominations. American Sniper in 2014-2015 was a very solid performer overseas with $197M, led surprisingly by Italy (although Italy adores Clint Eastwood), and also seeing strong returns in France, the UK and Japan.
Musical global comps for A Star In Born include The Greatest Showman, whose theatrical business was a real sostenuto as it legged out over weeks and weeks to $435M worldwide ($260.6M internationally). The biggest markets there were the UK, Japan and Australia. La La Land ultimately took $295M from overseas, led by the UK and Japan, but also hitting high notes in China and Korea. Of Les Misérables’ $442M global haul, $293M came from offshore. The pattern here was similar with the UK, Japan and Korea the top hubs.