(Bloomberg) — “Venom,” a character from the comic-book world of “Spider-Man,” topped the box office for a second weekend, breathing life into Sony Pictures’ superhero movie plans.
The surprise hit, which overcame poor reviews, collected $35.7 million in theaters in the U.S and Canada, ComScore Inc. estimated in an email Sunday. It beat three new movies, including an Oscar favorite “First Man,” which landed third with $16.5 million for Universal Pictures. Thriller “Bad Times at the El Royale” garnered $7.2 million, and a “Goosebumps” sequel — also from Sony — scored $16.2 million. Warner Brothers’ “A Star Is Born,” with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, came in second for the weekend with $28 million.
“Venom,” a symbiotic alien-human duo, is part of Sony’s plan to revive its “Spider-Man”-linked superhero movies. The company has been working on features from a universe of about 900 Marvel characters tied to the web slinger — a comic-book canon that the studio has licensed from Walt Disney Co.-owned Marvel Entertainment. The success of “Venom,” which has exceeded analysts’ expectations, gives the studio a boost as it tries to compete with the more-expansive superhero franchises at Disney and Warner Bros.
Sony Pictures, based in Culver City, California, will soon be the only major movie studio outside Disney to have Marvel superheroes at its disposal. Disney is acquiring 21st Century Fox, which had rights to certain Marvel characters such as the X-Men.
“Venom” was forecast to add $30 million to its haul this weekend, Box Office Pro analysts predicted. Sony said Sunday that the movie had collected $378.1 million globally.
Universal Pictures’ Oscar hopeful “First Man,” which was criticized by some politicians for not being patriotic enough, missed a forecast of $20 million by Box Office Pro. The film is based on the life story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. It had a budget of $59 million, before marketing costs, according to Box Office Mojo, and has been lauded by film critics, with 90 percent recommending it, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong in the movie, which is based on the astronaut’s only official biography: “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” by James R. Hansen. Armstrong — cast as an introvert rather than flashy hero — persists in his ambitions as an astronaut despite grief that followed the death of his daughter and colleagues.
Sony’s other new movie was a sequel to its “Goosebumps” Halloween movie franchise. The film received only 32 percent positive reviews, according to Rotten Tomatoes. “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” cost $35 million to make before marketing costs and was forecast to generate $18.6 million in its debut, according to Box Office Mojo and Box Office Pro. It missed the $23.6 million opening weekend of the first installment.
In the children’s book adaptation, Jack Black returns as R.L. Stine, but the movie is primarily focused on two awkward teenagers who discover Stine’s mischievous ventriloquist dummy Slappy. They accidentally bring the doll to life, and he sets out to wreak havoc.
The other new movie of the weekend, Fox thriller “Bad Times at the El Royale,” missed a forecast of $8.3 million by Box Office Pro. With a budget of $32 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, it pleased critics — with 76 percent giving positive reviews. Seven strangers — played by an ensemble that includes Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and Cynthia Erivo — all end up at a rundown hotel. Each has a dark secret and attempts some kind of redemption on that night.