Box Office

In the Battle of Lady Gaga Vs. Venom, Everyone Won

The internet, in the most optimistic view, was built to help us connect and learn together as a human race.

Peace. Harmony. All that.

Then, as we always do with technological advancements, we quickly just wanted to know how we could use this thing to watch other people doing it.

Then, we started using it to argue at each other over nothing because humanity trends toward tribalism.

So it is that prior to this weekend, the big story in Hollywood was the conspiracy theory over whether Venom’s poor word-of-mouth was just fake news. Lady Gaga fans flooded social media with fake reviews of Venom to intentionally depress word-of-mouth and funnel more people to see A Star is Born instead. Or so the theory went. Why would they do such a thing, you might ask? Because we all care way too damn much about opening weekend box office totals!

I made more than you. I set some random record. I win! There can be no alternative.

The plan, if there ever really was one, didn’t work. Venom conquered especially harsh reviews (I, for the record, kind of liked it) and enjoyed the biggest domestic opening ($80m) and global debut ($205m, which is double the film’s production budget) of any October release in history. And it’s not even close, really. There’s now previous record holders The Martian and Gravity way down there ($54m and $55m domestic openings respectively), and Venom way up here ($80m). Heck, Venom even had a bigger opening than 2018’s most recent superhero movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp, which had the benefit of being both a summer movie and the first post-Infinity War MCU title but still only managed $75m.

A Star is Born, meanwhile, received some of the best reviews of the year (here’s mine) and pulled in $42m, nearly 30% more than pre-release tracking expected a near-record a rom-com or live-action musical. That puts the film on the quick road to profitability since it only carries a $40m production budget. Still, if this were truly a zero-sum game, Venom clearly won. So, suck it, A Star is Born! You keep swimming over there in the shallow end. Sony’s too busy counting all of its money to hear your screams should you start drowning.

But this was never really an either/or situation. To paraphrase Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, you can see them both, and if you don’t, it’s not exactly like they’re going for the same audience.

For Venom, according to THR’s weekend box office breakdown, “nearly half the audience was under the age of 25, while nearly 70 percent was male.” So, basically, a bunch of young dudes went to see Venom, which is the cliched expectation for most comic book movies.

A Star is Born, meanwhile, skewed entirely differently. “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 aud was between the ages of 25 and 34, a possible sign that Lady Gaga fans, dubbed ‘Little Monsters,’ made an impact.” Women, especially older women, showed up in force to a support a movie that was largely targeted at them anyway.

It’s a win-win:

  • Sony desperately needed a franchise of its own, and now it has one.
  • Comic book fans got their latest kick until Aquaman hits over Christmas.
  • Warner Bros. already had an awards front-runner on its hands with A Star is Born. Now it has a box office smash which is riding such a word-of-mouth high that it will likely carry through into November.
  • Young dudes got to see a movie they wanted.
  • Ditto for older women.

Really, this past weekend was the Hollywood dream, especially when you add in Black Live Matters-drama The Hate U Give performing well in ultra-limited release. Coming up with counterprogramming to the relentless march of comic book/tentpole/blockbuster titles is an ongoing challenge. This weekend it worked and both sides prospered.

So, let’s stop all this Gaga vs. Venom talk. That was always a false argument anyway. In the end, both camps won.

Source: THR


  1. It was indeed silly. But I guess it ensured that there would be more attention on both movies…as someone wise said, bad press is better than no press at all. Usually that is true for Hollywood movies, too.

    I don’t think that Venom will have legs, though.

    1. “as someone wise said, bad press is better than no press at all. Usually that is true for Hollywood movies, too.”

      Smart observation. The trumped up social media spat ensured they were both trending.

      “I don’t think that Venom will have legs, though.”

      It’s certainly possible. It got a B+ CinemaScore, and these days it seems like anything under an A- for a comic book movie is considered not good. It is the only comic book movie in the game until Aquaman, but there’s enough audience overlap with looming October films like Bad Times at the El Royale, Goosebumps 2 and Halloween that a downturn might be inevitable. The only thing is Venom has already doubled its budget worldwide and it hasn’t even hit some of the biggest markets yet. Unless we’re talking severe, Batman v Superman-like drops Sony’s probably happy with what they got and already hard at work on the sequel.

      1. They most likely are considering the budget, but if they had hoped to built an actual universe on this…think again. I wouldn’t even bet on a sequel doing well. Most people who watched it and enjoyed it were mostly there to see Tom Hardy having chemistry with himself.

        I am ready to bet that Into the Spider-verse will do better. People are honestly excited about it, and it gets great WoM already from those who got to see part of the movie at comicon.

      2. ” were mostly there to see Tom Hardy having chemistry with himself.”

        Perfect way of putting it. Rare to see a movie where the leading man can be said to have better chemistry with himself than anyone else and for that to actually make sense.

        “I am ready to bet that Into the Spider-verse will do better. People are honestly excited about it, and it gets great WoM already from those who got to see part of the movie at comicon.”

        I don’t know much of a bump it will get from this, but worth noting that an extended sequence from Into the Spider-Verse is Venom’s second post-credits scene. No idea how many of the ticket-buyers responsible for Venom’s $200m+ debut stayed for that scene, but those that did now have an enticing tease of what to expect. It looks great.

      3. Welllll…it doubled its budget globally, and yeah it will probably make another few hundred million overseas, but domestically? Didn’t even break even yet.

        We know that these days that could very well be considered a failure even if it ends up making them a nice profit in the end. Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a bigger hit but had around the same budget/domestic gross/overseas gross ratio that Venom does now and they killed their previous expanded universe plans over it.

        All depends on how what Sony’s expectations are this time around I guess.

      4. “All depends on how what Sony’s expectations are this time around I guess.”

        I think that’s the difference. The expectations were so, so low, and they’re far more desperate for a franchise than they were when ASM2 failed. At least then they had James Bond as well. But, yes, according to Deadline’s annual profit/loss breakdowns ASM actually turned a profit, right on par with Days of Future Past, actually. However, ASM2 seemed to have both a critical and fan backlash, which is part of what lowered Venom expectations so much and part of why there seems to be a lot of “It’s not that bad, actually” from the fans about this movie.

      5. They killed it because the Spider-Man franchise was in a constant downward trend (since Spider-Man 1 every single Spiderman movie made less domestically than the previous one, and you can’t trust that the international box office will off-set it like it did with Spider-Man 3) and they actually lost money on the last one because of the huge marketing push they did.

      6. I agree in general with what you said.

        “they actually lost money on the last one because of the huge marketing push they did.”

        If we’re talking about ASM 2 and not Spider-Man 3, then I’ll just refer you to what I wrote 3 years ago. I don’t know if more information about the P&A spend or profit/loss statement came out of the Sony hack, but back then Deadline was reporting ASM 2 actually scored a profit of $70m, even with prod. budget of $255 and P&A in the $175m territory:

      7. Honestly, I don’t remember where this information comes from…I do remember that initially Spider-Man 2 was considered a modest success financially, but a failure because of the downward trend. And at one point I learned from somewhere that they broke even or even lost money one it because of the huge marketing push they did. Could have been revealed during the Sony hack, could simply be creative accounting which leaked. One thing for sure, they spend more on marketing then usual and it still did less than the previous movie.

      8. “One thing for sure, they spend more on marketing then usual and it still did less than the previous movie.”

        Agreed. That principle remains true across all tellings I’ve seen – Sony spent more to make less. It’s a terrible way to do business, and it’s no wonder the two people responsible for it have since been pushed out of the studio. Their replacement, Tom Rothman, is notoriously frugal by comparison.

      9. Rothman is also an idiot who succeeded at Fox despite his tenure and not because of it. He had a knack to be obstructive about exactly the projects which turned out to be the most successful.

      10. And his tenure at Sony has had plenty of its own drama. Employees were lobbying for him to be fired less than a year into the job. That’s why Venom crashing expectations is so big for him. He needed a win, and last I checked something like last year’s The Dark Tower didn’t quite cut it (I say sarcastically).

      11. Sorry I can’t give you a source…you know how it is, there is a lot of information just rattling around in my head. I tend to stick to reputable sources, though.

      12. Understood. And, also, no need to apologize. I don’t mean to sound like a Senator yelling “Who are your sources?” at some journalist who refuses to name names. Or something like that.

  2. I’m going to be a negative nelly. I’m surprised that people are so keen on a film that is not only a remake but a third-time remake. That just makes me think of the Paul Westerberg song title “A Star is Bored”.

    I will probably skip seeing “Venom” too.

    1. A Star is Born being a third-time remake only really matters depending on how you answer the following question: have you actually seen any of the prior versions? Because if you haven’t, Bradley Cooper and Lada Gaga’s movie is quite the experience.

      It is ironic to me, however, that 2018 is going to give us both A Star is Born and Blaze. The former is an ultimately familiar Cinderella story of a talented woman making it big and making men feel uncomfortable because, ego. Blaze, on the other hand, is Ethan Hawke’s anti-biopic biopic about Blaze Foley, a country music star who never made it big and is not remembered by anyone other than hardcore country fans. That, Hawke says, is the more realistic and relatable film about an artist’s life. A Star is Born, however, is pure, intoxicating fantasy. I was happy to inuldge it. Looking forward to Blaze, whenver it gets to me.

      As for Venom, if the phrase “stupid fun” isn’t enough to win you over, well, I don’t blame you. It’s not a “good” movie, but it does hurdle an insanely low bar in managing to be kind of watchable just for Tom Hardy’s weirdo chemistry with himself, to borrow a phrase from Swanpride.

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