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‘Venom’ and ‘A Star Is Born’ Achieve Symbiosis, Break October Box Office Records

There was something for everyone at the movies this weekend: bizarre, PG-13-rated superhero action for the kids, and rock star melodrama for the grown-ups

Sony Pictures Releasing/Warner Bros. Pictures/Ringer illustration

When Sony elected to make a Venom movie despite knowing it would have zero connections to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, who now belongs to Marvel Studios, skeptics like myself presumed it would be a high-profile box office bomb. It also didn’t help that Sony deprived Tom Hardy of his favorite 40 minutes of footage and slapped a PG-13 rating on an antihero whose modus operandi is to decapitate and eat people. But against all odds, Venom had the best box office opening in the history of October and combined with a strong debut for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born to notch the biggest October box office weekend of all time.

Venom totaled an estimated $80 million domestically, far surpassing the previous October record set by Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity in 2013 with $55.7 million, according to Box Office Mojo. (To give an idea of how impressive this was even by superhero-movie standards, this opening netted about $5 million more than Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp in July.) Along with an additional $125 million made overseas, Venom has already grossed over $200 million on a $100 million budget. Not only has Sony’s gambit to make a film featuring a secondary Spider-Man character paid off, but there’s already plenty of incentive to green-light a sequel, which, as revealed in an end-credits scene in Venom—spoiler alert—would pit Tom Hardy’s Venom against Woody Harrelson as Carnage, complete with a horrifying Ronald McDonald wig.

Venom is a massive success after being critically panned and lacking buzz due to its PG-13 rating; imagine if 20th Century Fox censored Deadpool. But here’s the thing: While Venom might not be good, it’s not bad in the conventional sense. It’s one of the best so-bad-it’s-good films in years, a sensation that can largely be attributed to Hardy giving audiences the closest possible answer to an eternal question: What would Marlon Brando be like in a superhero movie? Hardy performs like there’s an actual alien parasite in his body—contorting himself in strange ways when jumping into a lobster tank, doing some all-time bizarre accent work, and (of course) covering his face for half the movie. I can’t say Venom is good, but I also can’t say I didn’t recommend it to dozens of people.

And while a hard-R Venom movie would’ve made more sense considering the subject matter, Sony’s decision to keep it PG-13 appears to have made the most fiscal sense. The Venom audience was 59 percent male, according to Box Office Mojo, but, most notably, 64 percent of moviegoers were younger than 25. Hardy may have grievances over some of the (presumably gory) bits left on the cutting room floor, but from a pure business standpoint, it’s hard to argue with an October box office record that’ll be difficult to top. (Also, a quick shout-out to the movie’s international marketing; Venom seems like a solid boyfriend?)

What’s even more impressive about Venom’s huge weekend, though, is that it wasn’t hurt by the debut of A Star Is Born—even after Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters started tweeting out fake reviews of Venom in an attempt to draw more people toward Cooper’s directorial debut. As it turns out, the movies were able to coexist. One could even say they achieved symbiosis. A Star Is Born had a $41.25 million domestic opening, which itself cracked the top-10 box office openings in the month of October.

Aside from the bizarre coincidence of the two movies sharing the same cinematographer in Matthew Libatique, Venom and A Star Is Born couldn’t be more different. While Venom is a good-bad, CGI-heavy superhero flick where Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams gets to say, “I’m sorry about Venom,” and probably mean it, A Star Is Born is an actual good—possibly great—movie. And though Venom’s moment in the spotlight will likely begin and end with its record-breaking October, A Star Is Born is in this for the long game: The movie is a presumed Oscar front-runner, and Oscar movies typically generate good box office numbers long after their original release dates. $40-plus million is an excellent start, and, if La La Land is anything to go off of, earning over $100 million domestically by the end of its return is easily within reason for A Star Is Born. Warner Bros. will be able to have its cake and eat it too: A Star Is Born is going to turn in a nice profit and likely make some noise at the Oscars. “Shallow” is the front-runner to win Best Original Song, though I do think it’ll be challenged by Eminem’s slapping theme song “Venom.” (Can we please make Eminem perform at the Oscars while getting slimed with black goo?)

The Little Monsters might’ve tried to slander Venom to steer moviegoers to see Gaga’s first starring role, but these films weren’t competing with each other so much as hitting distinct demographics. A Star Is Born’s audience was 66 percent female, with 86 percent of viewers aged 25 or older—essentially, the opposite of Venom’s viewership. So having these two movies come out on the same day meant luring just about everyone to the box office—albeit for different reasons—en route to a record-setting weekend.

Whether audiences went off the deep end with A Star Is Born or heard a symbiote with a surly voice call Tom Hardy a “LOSER” multiple times in Venom, there was something for almost everybody this weekend. And for anybody who double-dipped and saw both films, you’re in a new class of fandom. We’ll call you the Slimy Monsters.