This weekend is a perfect example of the purpose of examining what numbers can actually mean when you look at them more closely. First, the box office tracking services seriously underestimated the growing word-of-mouth of A Star is Born after its raves at film festivals. On top of that, sure, the glass-half-full will point to Venom having the biggest opening ever for an October release — even better than those same services were predicting for it weeks ago — but it could become an example of winning the battle but ultimately losing the war.
So let’s examine Venom and see if it truly exists in a half-empty glass. Until this weekend, Paranormal Activity 3 had the highest Friday opening ever in October with $26.3 million. Despite Gravity pulling in nearly $9 million less on its opening day, by the end of its weekend it became the best 3-day October opening of all-time. Venom made $32.3 million on Friday and spawned a final estimated 3-day of $80 million. That is $25 million higher than Gravity. Big for October, sure. Big for a Marvel property, not so much. Now, Marvel has never opened a film in October before so even if it opened to an Ang-Lee-Hulk-like $65 million (as was initially projected) they still have an October record nearly $25 million greater than the biggest release ever this month (Gravity’s $274 million.) Is Venom really headed for that kind of word-of-mouth?
The Tomatometer currently reads 32% for Venom. That is the 9th worst score of Marvel properties since 2000, down there with The Punishers and the Ghost Riders. On the other hand, only two films ever to open with higher than $75 million (Fifty Shades of Grey and X-Men Origins: Wolverine) failed to reach $200 million. That would get the reported $100 million production nearly halfway to hitting the $450 million target it needs to break even. However, among the 20 Marvel titles since 1998’s Blade to fail to reach $250 million internationally are the ten worst-reviewed films of the bunch – including X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Venom may be bucking this trend by making half that this weekend with $125 million overseas. The Predator is currently establishing the new multiple low for a film to open on over 4,000 screens. Will Venom challenge that? We will be examining Venom’s progress week-to-week. In the meantime, Sony and Ruben Fleischer can enjoy this victory.
Even on the heels of raves at film festivals, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born was being projected for a $25 million opening. That was ludicrous then and even moreso now, as it is estimated to have a start of over $41 million. While Venom is catching headlines for having the biggest October opening ever, A Star is Born just claimed the 10th spot on the list and could conceivably outlast the Marvel spinoff and climb the all-time October chart. The directorial debut is the 14th wide release of 2018 to score over 90% on the Tomatometer. (It is currently at 91%.) That number just missed the top ten openings ever for an actor-turned-director but is actually the best ever when the director is also the star.
Movies about singers have not been a cash cow for this industry. We’re not talking straight-up musicals here, but movies about the art or characters who make their living through it. Go past Pitch Perfect 2 and Straight Outta Compton (starting with $69 & $60 million) and you go down to Walk the Line and Ray ($22 & $20 million,) The Bodyguard with Whitney Houston is just one of six movies about this line of work that passed the $100 million mark. A Star is Born is going to do that and then some. Finally, come awards time, Bradley Cooper has a chance to join Walt Disney as the only people to get at least six nominations in the same year. Cooper has a chance for Producing, Directing, Acting, Screenwriting and possibly multiple songs that he co-wrote with future Oscar winner Lady Gaga. Throw in a possible Supporting Actor nomination for Clint Eastwood’s The Mule (which was just added to the December release slate) and Cooper could become the most nominated person in any one year of the Oscars ever.
Last week’s top film, Night School, fell 55% down to fourth place this weekend. That puts it slightly behind the pace of Think Like a Man Too which finished with $65.1 million. Smallfoot held a bit better with its family constitutent and with $42.7 million is in a group that includes Captain Underpants, Happy Feet Two, Open Season, Chicken Run and Penguins of Madagascar. The $100 million of Chicken Run appears to be well out of reach and with it a few million ahead of the pace of Storks, Smallfoot is headed for the $75 million range. Warner Bros. had four films in the Top Ten this weekend. The Nun and Crazy Rich Asians are at $346 and $225 million worldwide, respectively. Crazy Rich Asians gets to hold onto the 10th spot of the highest-grossers of 2018 for at least a few more weeks.
Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock In Its Walls remains within the realm of live action children’s book adaptations of Goosebumps, Eragon and The Spiderwick Chronicles keeping it with an estimate in the $70-80 million range. Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor is going to cross $50 million in the next couple of days as is The Predator though that film is going to be marked a financial failure even if it still manages to outgross it’s 2010 predecessor Predators. (Say that five times fast.)
Among limited releases, Fox has a pair of titles to keep an eye on. Searchlight expanded David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun this weekend into 49 theaters and it grossed $385,000. It’s total now stands at an estimated $575,000 and it will be expanding into more cities over the next few weeks. Then Fox has George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give (96%) which grossed $500,000 in 36 theaters. That is less than a third of what Isle of Dogs made opening in 27 theaters ($1.62 million) but it is on par with the documentary RBG which grossed $575,455 in 34 theaters this May. It also expands in the coming weeks. Also notable is the mountain climbing documentary, Free Solo which expanded from 4 to 41 theaters and had the 4th best per-theater-average of the weekend with a gross of $540,000. The Hate U Give had the 3rd best PTA while Venom had the best.
Two relics from the 1980s drew different audiences and somewhere in between there was a mountain. Blade Runner 2049 led the way with $32.7 million but ultimately came up well short of hitting its profit margin with $259 million worldwide on a $150 million budget. That left one of the biggest red marks in the Hollywood ledger last year. That still seems better than My Little Pony: The Movie which opened to $8.8 million and finished with just $21.8 million domestic. Then finishing second was the Kate Winslet/Idris Elba survival drama, The Mountain Between Us, which started with $10.5 million and ended with $30.3 million. Meanwhile, It crossed the $300 million mark. The top ten films in 2017 this weekend grossed a total of $97 million and averaged 61.1% on the Tomatometer. This weekend’s films grossed an estimate $166.8 Million and averaged 57.2%
Back-to-back weeks we get one of the biggest award contenders of the year when Damien Chazelle presents his follow-up to La La Land with the story of Neil Armstrong in First Man (currently 89% on the Tomatometer.) Drew Goddard brought genre deconstruction with The Cabin in the Woods and now takes on a whole other sort of deconstruction with the crime thriller, Bad Times at the El Royale (79%). Jack Black jumped ship but Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween hopes to bring back its family audience. Also in limited release is another awards contender with Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamat in the junkie drama, Beautiful Boy (68%), and actor/comedian Ike Barinholtz makes his directorial debut with a hilarious commentary on the state of this fractured nation in The Oath (92%) featuring Tiffany Haddish and John Cho.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]