SUNDAY AM FINAL after Saturday 11:44 PM update: Sony is calling the weekend on Venom at an $80M opening after a strong Saturday of $26.6M, -19% from Friday, a percent ease that’s in the Friday-to-Saturday sphere of Guardians of the Galaxy (-18%), and a tad steeper than Justice League (-15%). Sony is projecting a $20.7M Sunday.
At this level, Venom reps Sony’s seventh-best domestic opening of all-time, behind Spider-Man 3 ($151.1M), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($117M), Spider-Man ($114.8M), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($91.6M), Skyfall ($88.3M), and Spider-Man 2 ($88.1M).
That speaks volumes about why Venom is so high-up on the studio’s domestic B.O. opener list: In Marvel comic book canon and even in Spider-Man 3, the black-clad, fanged anti-hero is a spinoff of Spider-Man. In the wake of Sony teaming with Disney’s Marvel on Homecoming, the Culver City studio is careful to distinguish its own Marvel properties. They don’t consider Venom a Spider-Man spinoff or Spider-Man related. But seriously, let’s call Venom‘s success for what it is: Moviegoers aren’t flocking to this pic because it’s original IP. It’s because they’re connecting it to Spider-Man (even though he’s never mentioned or alluded to in the movie). A Fandango survey of 1,000 moviegoers indicated prior to the weekend that 93% were looking forward to seeing a different kind of Marvel anti-hero, while 90% couldn’t wait for a future Venom/Spider-Man match-up (even though the former property isn’t part of Disney’s MCU) while 80% were going because they were Tom Hardy fans. The film also has an anti-establishment sensibility which is an attribute in the current political environment, and some in the industry believe fans took to that.
Sony was hoping that Venom would launch a greater cinematic universe of characters seen in the Spider-Man verse, and well, mission accomplished this weekend with this very solid start. In the wings is a Morbius movie, with Daniel Espinosa directing and Jared Leto as the title vampire and Spider-Man villain, as well as projects centering around Kraven the Hunter, Silk, Jackpot, Nightwatch, Black Cat and Silver (the latter two now poised to get their own separate films versus the originally planned teaming).
Imax pulled in $8.4M stateside from 408 screens, making Venom the large-format exhibitor’s second-highest grossing opening ever for October. Says Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster, “What a weekend for the business! The expansion of the marketplace was incredible and shows we can continue to thrive when the titles are right. Venom served the core Marvel and Imax fans, and Star Is Born played to the romantic, dreamers and cinefiles.”
Venom dropped a teaser on YouTube back in February which clocked 19M views, even though it didn’t show the monstrous protagonist. He was later added in subsequent trailers starting at CinemaCon back in March with a social media universe that exploded to close to 755M across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube views, with a high viral trailer rate of 36 to 1. Eminem, who performs the title song, has shared plenty of Venom materials to his 132M fans, making him the pic’s social media star ahead of Hardy’s 3.3M followers. A San Diego Comic-Con splash marked Hardy’s first time in Hall H back in July.
Other marketing highlights included a fan immersion where Spotify subscribers found themselves caught between the voices of Hardy’s Eddie Brock and Venom through an immersive 3D audio spot. Fans were able to become Venom via augmented reality through socially shareable Facebook and Snapchat lenses; on Snapchat they were able to toggle between Eminem’s “Venom” track and a custom Venom voice modulator.
On TV Sony sponsored Draft Kings’ largest free to play contest during NFL’s opening weekend as well as had a spot during the Sept. 6 opening night game between the Eagles and Falcons. Sony created a comedic ESPN vignette in which former NFL athletes Charles Woodson & Randy Moss focus grouped new mascots with hardcore Raiders Fans, resulting in Venom becoming the fiercest choice as he ferociously devours the room. There was also a sponsorship on the PPV boxing event Canelo vs. GGG on Sept. 15. Adult Swim ran funny irreverent spots parodying modern home device commercials by pitching the “first ever symbiote-infected” device that comically disrupt people’s lives. Discovery Channel produced a series of content pieces featuring the cast from ‘Shifting Gears’ speaking with Jack Gill (the action-designer on the film) about the stunts and action from the movie. On Twitter, there was the Venom Fortnite Challenge where fans were given the opportunity to team up with their favorite gaming influencers in a live streaming Fortnite tournament.
Top over-indexing markets for Venom included Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Toronto and Phoenix, as well as areas where there was a heavy armed forces presence. Hardy visited two USO bases and one additional one in San Antonio (non USO) where he screened the film.
Venom and Warner Bros./Live Nation’s A Star Is Born –which had a $15M Saturday, -4% from Friday for a revised FSS of $41.2M, with previews $42.6M–accounted for the best presales October weekend record ever for Fandango. While Venom had the most advance ticket sales, A Star Is Born was close behind with both besting the previous record set by 20th Century Fox’s The Martian. Again both movies are propelling October to its best weekend ever with north of $175.4M in ticket sales per ComScore this morning.
“It comes down to content, smart marketing, finding the right date and having an extraordinary movie,” says Warners domestic distribution boss Jeff Goldenstein about the powerhouse weekend, adding, “This is a movie that we’re so proud of, Bradley Cooper did a great job directing and acting and with Lady Gaga told an incredible story.” While older women were always set on attending, and then did with PostTrak showing at 47% females over 25, it was important to get the under 25 bunch in the door, and that’s where those word of mouth premium and Dolby previews came in Wednesday and Thursday night. The studio also targeted Gaga’s Little Monster fans. While the under 25 bunch gave A Star Is Born an A+ on CinemaScore, PostTrak reflected a similar opinion as they gave the pic a 91% overall positive.
Initially, A Star Is Born had a release date of Sept. 28, then it was moved to May 18 (there was some pondering as to whether the pic should premiere at Cannes ala Warner’s The Great Gatsby), but rather than rush the movie out, the studio gave Cooper more time to hone the feature for an awards season launch.
The key in selling A Star Is Born to older audiences was establishing that Cooper could direct and sing, and Gaga could act. There was a deep commitment to sell the pic on its intimacy, authenticity and emotional truth and to not over-market it.
There were various trailers that Warner Bros. considered, and settled on one that begins with Cooper singing “Diggin’ My Grave” and Gaga’s vocal soaring at the end in “Shallow” after telling Cooper’s Jack that she doesn’t sing her own songs because of her looks. It’s a story of wish fullfillment, particularly for anyone who has ever had the feeling that they can’t do something and then overcome it. The trailer was finished for six months but Warner wanted to drop it at just the right time to create a proper word of mouth resonance, so they chose June. By August the festival strategy for the pic’s launch at Venice and TIFF began, and in between that time, the studio dropped four clips/teasers which leaned into other elements about the film, such as the male relationships. The clips drop at this time was to capitalize on the hot word of mouth coming out of Venice; the advertising strategy dovetailing the word of mouth strategy for subtle campaign.
Interscope Records was a huge partner for Warners, the two previously collaborating on The Great Gatsby, and the record company dropped the soundtrack on opening day instead of ahead the film. The reason being is because the songs are part of the film’s narrative and they take on a greater meaning after you see the pic. The A Star Is Born soundtrack is a huge hit on iTunes not just as the top-selling albums, but its tracks have notched the no. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 top single spots. Says RelishMix about Warners’ strategy with the pic’s music, “Cooper and Gaga’s chemistry was something special from the start, and it’s paying dividends in clips. Warner Bros. campaign has been very strategic in sharing these clips on its official YouTube Channel and Gaga’s own channel which has over 10M subscribers.” The “Shallow” video of Gaga and Cooper singing that was released on YouTube has drawn a huge 18M views. Overall social media universe is over 300M for the pic per RelishMix with Lady Gaga’s social media of 155M followers making up more than half of that.
Both Venom and A Star Is Born were fully CAA-packaged movies, both put together in-house at the agency. On Venom, they repped character co-creator Todd McFarlane, director Ruben Fleischer (who sees his highest opening of all-time at the B.O. surpassing Zombieland‘s $24.7M), star Tom Hardy and actors Riz Ahmed and Woody Harrelson. On A Star Is Born, director/star/producer Bradley Cooper is a CAA client along with co-scribe Eric Roth, as well as Lady Gaga and actors Anthony Ramos and Alec Baldwin.
For Warners the Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga music romance is their second-biggest October opener after Gravity ($55.7M). Warners is savoring third place as well with their animated Smallfoot which is set to do $14.9M (-35%) in weekend 2 after a $6.3M Saturday (+81% over Friday) and a running total by EOD tomorrow of $42.7M.
Universal has slots 4 & 5 with Night School and its weekend 2 of $12.2M (-55%) and a 10-day of $46.7M, as well as the Amblin title they’re distributing The House With a Clock In Its Walls which is seeing a current third weekend of $7.2M, -42% and a running total by end of Sunday of $55M.
Fox 2000’s The Hate U Give was +10% today with $193K on its way to a $500K opening and a $13,8K.
Studio-reported estimates for the weekend of Oct. 5-7
SATURDAY AM WRITETHRU after Friday 11:07PM update: Sony can breathe a giant sigh of relief as their Marvel-verse Venom is absolutely working at the domestic box office with what is now estimated to be an $80M weekend after a $32.9M Friday, both quite easily October records besting Gravity‘s $55.7M opening weekend and Paranormal Activity 3‘s opening day of $26.3M. If Saturday holds at -15% or better for Friday, Venom can swing past $80M.
Meanwhile Warner Bros.’ Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga rock concert A Star Is Born is soaring to $42.2M over three-days, $43.5M with previews, a fantastic result beating the 3-days of such musical theme pics (comps are hard here as it’s a different type of IP) as Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again ($34.9M), Les Miserables ($27.2M), and Michael Jackson’s This Is It ($23.2M), which, granted, is a different type of movie being movie being a doc, but it was a concert-like film with a beloved pop star and a late October release. A Star Is Born literally becomes its own comp now.
Overall, a huge weekend for the industry with an estimated $170.6M haul, a record 3-day for October beating the first weekend of October 2015 when The Martian led all movies to a $151.4M take. And get this: Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving and Columbus Day in the Northeast with around 42% schools off, so Venom and A Star Is Born will see even higher takes.
In addition, Venom gets a B+ CinemaScore which is an audience grade on par with Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (B+, $91.6M opening),Warner Bros.’ Justice League (B+, $93.8M), Sony’s Spider-Man 3 (B+, $151.1M debut), Warners’ Suicide Squad (B+, $133.6M) and ahead of Warners’ Batman v. Superman (B, $166M); a healthy enough grade for a comic book movie to stay alive theatrically, especially in the face of its poisonous 31% Rotten Tomatoes score. Updated PostTrak is still four stars but 80% overall positive.
While Sony contends that the production cost was net $100M before P&A, we’ve heard that it’s around $116M with Georgia tax credits. Either way, it’s still cheap enough finance sources have informed us. If Venom launches to $150M-plus globally –that’s even if the film broke down stateside with a $55M-$60M opening–Venom would still be safe. We’re told that a $450M global take ultimately gets Venom to break-even during its theatrical release. China’s Tencent is reportedly covering around a third of the production cost, however, a China release for Venom has yet to be announced.
There was much to be worried about here with Venom heading into the weekend. There was plenty of bad buzz surrounding the movie from internal studio debates if the movie should be rated PG-13 or R, to rumored creative differences between director Ruben Fleischer and Tom Hardy (the director wanted Venom to be serious, Hardy preferred more comedy; the movie, in the end, has both tones), to reshoots, to a backlash among fans over Venom being left out of the teaser, to noise that the pic was being edited down to the wire and wasn’t available to show to press until late last week. And then, oy, the reviews! God knows how they poisoned the well for Batman v. Superman‘s overall perception despite its near $900M commercial success and how they crashed Justice League‘s opening from a projected $110M-$120M to $93.8M.
Well, Sony has the last laugh in regards to Venom and can wave all that bad Chi goodbye.
What’s going right here? Some say it’s the date that’s great. Never mind that nonsense about October being a low-grossing month at the B.O. There’s money in that first weekend of October and distributors have been trying to tap it, and tap it and expand the marketplace post Gravity. Heck, they knew it worked when Taken 2 opened to $49.5M six years ago. That’s why Warners, Alcon, and Sony dated Blade Runner 2049 on this weekend last year, in hopes that fanboys would come out. However, a slow 164-minute, R-rated cult sci-fi property didn’t create a stampede like we’re seeing here for Venom. Confidence in the fanboy commercial prospects of October’s first weekend is so high, Warners put DC’s The Joker here a year from now.
What’s also working per distribution sources is that Venom is an adored fanboy character who is fresh, and deeper universe comic book properties have proven recently to work at the box office: Venom‘s opening day isn’t that far from Doctor Strange‘s $32.5M ($85M opening weekend) and just under Guardians of the Galaxy‘s $37.8M ($94.3M opening). His time was due on the big screen.
Social media monitor RelishMix noticed a mixed buzz online for Venom though leaning positive with fans “talking about shared clips discussing theories, suspicions, and hopes for months, ever since Venom’s first materials debuted last December. And Tom Hardy has a lot of love from moviegoers who are excited to see what he does with this anti-hero favorite. The clips and other social materials have resonated with fans who like the idea of a giant monster out of control. Even the dialogue of ‘We are Venom’ and moments from the official trailers have been discussed at length. Also, one of the polarizing elements of Venom worth mentioning is the absence of Spider-Man.”
Venom drew 68% males on PostTrak to 32% females, with 36% males over 25 the biggest group, followed by 32% guys under 25, 19% females over 25 (they loved it the most 85%; gotta be the Hardy factor), and females under 25 at 13%. A solid turnout here at 36% Caucasian, 27% Hispanic, 19% African American, 11% Asian and 6% Other. Venom played best in the West and South but was strong across the board we hear.
And Warner Bros., who had nothing to worry about heading into the weekend with A Star Is Born after its rapturous response out of Venice, TIFF and press screenings (91% certified fresh), is singing well beyond a soprano’s range at the B.O., busting past its $30M-plus projections to $42.2M; ($43.5M with previews)an awesome start for what is primed to be a major awards season contender.
Like Warner’s previous pop-star love story hit The Bodyguard ($16.6M opening, $122M domestic — huge numbers back in 1992), the studio sold Star on its kinetic magnetism between gorgeous Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga and the soulful emotion of its songs; the latter Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee vocally shining through in the tail-end of trailers like a butterfly spreading her wings. You don’t have to watch the trailer, just listen to it, and you’re sold on its story about an old tattered soul who takes an ingenue under his wing and gives her a platform to fly. Part of the sell in this movie is also its message on the blood, sweat, and tears it took to make it, read the studio’s confidence in Cooper’s vision, and The Hangover actor-turned filmmaker betting it all on Gaga in her first big-screen lead role, similar to his character in the movie.
A Star Is Born gets a solid A CinemaScore tonight and a 90% on PostTrak and 4.5 stars. Who doesn’t love the movie? Females turned out at 66% to guys’ 34%; both gave it a solid A. Over 50 bunch at 42% graded it A. Under 25ers may have been small in their turnout at 14%, but they loved the Cooper-directed movie the most with an A+. Those over 25 who made up 86% of the audience gave A Star Is Born an A. On PostTrak, 69% of the audience was Caucasian, 17% Hispanic, 4% African American and 7% Asian. A Star Is Born played best in the big cities, especially on the coasts: A majority of the top 10 runs were in New York or Los Angeles.
More good news for Warner Bros. this weekend: Their Crazy Rich Asians is $500K shy of overtaking The Help‘s final domestic cume of $169.7M.
Specialty highlights: Fox 2000’s limited release of The Hate U Give at 36 locations is looking at $175K on Friday, and a $550K FSS for a $15K rich per screen. NatGeo’s doc Free Solo scales ups to 11th place with $716K (+143%) after climbing from 4 to 41 locations and a 10-day of $1.1M. Theater average is $15K. Bleecker Street’s Colette is up 69 theaters for 107 in weekend 3 in spot 13 with $479K, +24% and a running cume of $1.2M. Annapurna’s The Sisters Brothers is up 27 venues for 54 in weekend 3 and a FSS of $193K, -17% for a running total of $680K.
FRIDAY NOON UPDATE: Sony’s Venom is easily on its way to the best opening ever for October, beating the $55.7M start of Warner Bros.’ 2014’s Gravity, and headed for an opening that’s around $65M off a Friday that’s between $27M-$29M. Some see it higher, possibly crossing $70M, but that remains to be see as the day goes on and whether fanboys stick it through. There’s also the concern that the UFC fight and MLB playoffs will keep older men away. They obviously showed up last night shelling out $10M which is being rolled into Friday’s number and they gave it four stars on PostTrak which is the same grade as Warner Bros.’ Justice League. Note the ComScore/Screen Engine exit polls update throughout the weekend. Imax showtimes are currently hot. Sony is spotting a low $60M range start, which is a still an October record for the Ruben Fleischer-directed movie.
Audiences aren’t having a bad romance or putting on poker faces for Warner Bros./Live Nation’s A Star Is Born which is soaring to $41M for the weekend after a Friday $15M-$16M (including $4.55M in previews); they’ve been flocking to Lady Gaga’s star-making role since Wednesday. Warner Bros.’ Smallfoot and Universal’s Night School are duking for third with about $13.5M a piece in their second weekends. Night School will rise to a running 10-day total of $47.5M while Smallfoot will see $41.3M by Sunday.
Altogether this will result a record weekend for October, set to beat the total weekend tickets sales of the Oct. 2-4, 2015 frame which minted $151.4M lead by the $54.3M opening of 20th Century Fox’s The Martian. The top four films along this weekend are poised to make $133M alone. Who said October was slow?
Fandango reports that this weekend is pacing to set an October record for the most advance tickets sold. Venom is selling a record number of tickets for an October release besting The Martian. A Star Is Born is tracking to come in at #2 advance seller of the month of all-time.
FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Sony is reporting a whopping $10M for Venom-–the best Thursday night preview in October of all-time beating Paranormal Activity 3‘s $8M midnight shows, while Warner Bros. is reporting that the last three nights of previews for A Star Is Born tallied $4.55M.
The latter specified included over 3,200 theaters last night that started at 7PM, plus 100 Tuesday night Dolby previews (one showtime only) and 500 premium locations on Wednesday for one show.
Venom started its play at 5 p.m. in 3,543 locations and at around 6PM we were noticing that the Tom Hardy Marvel superhero movie was on its way to at least $7M. Sony is sticking to its $55M projection, while industry projections see it much higher in the $60M-$65M. The thing to keep in mind is how front-loaded this is going to be, and that’s why estimates are being squashed at this point in time.
Venom‘s $10M is on par with the preview cash that Sony minted for Spider-Man 3 which went on to do a $59.8M opening day and $151.1M weekend. It’s also higher than Doctor Strange‘s $9.4M Thursday which translated into a $32.5M opening day and $85M opening. But don’t get excited. Both movies had higher Rotten Tomatoes scores respectively of 63% fresh and 89% certified fresh while Venom has been poisoned by 28% rotten. The latter could potentially slow down grosses even though a case can be made that most superhero are critic-proof. Warner Bros. Justice League was forecasted to do between $110M-$120M and the superhero ensemble movie crashed with a $93.8M opening, hurt by a 40% Rotten Tomatoes score in the wake of fans and critics being put off by director Zack Snyder’s previous Batman v. Superman, even though they shelled out over $873M WW, $330.3M domestic to see that film.
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s country lovefest made $3.2M last night and $1.35M over Tuesday and Wednesday previews. How that stacks up to other musical comps: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again grossed $3.4M in its Thursday night, and October blockbusters The Martian and Gone Girl respectively made $2.5M and $1.2M in their Thursday night previews. This tells how much A Star Is Born is going to overindex and given that it’s an older female pic, they’ll be coming in droves for quite some time. Mamma Mia 2 posted a $14.2M opening day and FSS of $34.9M while The Martian did $18.1M Friday and a $54.3M opening weekend and Gone Girl did $13.1M Friday and $37.5M opening weekend.
EXCLUSIVE: The super first weekend of the October box office has fired off and we’re hearing that Sony’s Venom is around $7M tonight after showtimes starting at 5pm, and for Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born from Warner Bros. we’re hearing $2M-$3M. That latter figure is for those 7PM showtimes tonight and doesn’t include Tuesday night’s Dolby preview at 100 locations and 500 locations last night in premium venues.
These estimates do not come from Sony or Warner sources, but Deadline’s own.
If Venom‘s Thursday night cash holds up, it will be ahead of such previews as Ant-Man ($6.4M) Thor: Dark World ($7.1M) and under Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 which did $8.7M. Some believe Venom can really excel tonight as it’s still early in the West and possibly do more than $7M. Thor: Dark World went on to do $31.8M on its first Friday with Thursday repping 22% of that number. Dark World opened to $85.7M ultimately. That was off a Rotten Tomatoes score of 66% fresh while Venom is battling 30% Rotten.
If Venom exceeds $8M tonight, it will likely rank as the best preview night ever in October, Paramount/Blumhouse’s Paranormal Activity 3 from 2011 owning the current record with $8M and that was off midnight showtimes.
Atom Tickets observes that in their advance ticket sampling presales are skewing more toward men, with the average age of ticket buyers being a majority of 18-29 year olds buying tickets.
A Star Is Born is a hard one to comp: What musical films have there been in October? Also, pics like La La Land platformed in December while The Greatest Showman opened on a Wednesday sans previews before Christmas Monday and did $8.7M in the Friday through Sunday span before Christmas. The film didn’t explode until after Christmas and played and played beating La La Land, $174.3M to $151.1M. Tracking has A Star Is Born north of $30M for the weekend, wild projections are at $40M. Reviews are through the roof at 93% certified fresh; a number that tells average moviegoers ‘Hey, maybe we should check this out’. Sony estimates for Venom are $55M for the weekend while industry estimates are well north of $60M.
On Fandango, A Star is Born sold out hundreds of its Tuesday and Wednesday night previews and is outpacing the advance ticket sales for such October hits as The Martian ($54.3M), Gravity ($55.7m) and Gone Girl ($37.5) at the same point in their Fandango sales cycles.
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