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It was a record-smashing weekend at the box office, thanks to Venom and A Star Is Born

The two films performed better than expected, setting records for October opening weekends.

Images from A Star Is Born and Venom
A Star Is Born and Venom captured the box office in October — and set records in the process.
Warner Bros.; Sony
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

This weekend’s box office returns, the biggest ever for an October opening weekend, were propelled by a pair of musicians and a pile of black alien goo.

Two very different movies — Venom, based on the Spider-Man associate of its title, and A Star Is Born, the fourth iteration of the classic melodrama — posted ticket sales over the weekend that were much higher than projected, combining for a massive, record-breaking weekend at cinemas.

Venom, starring Tom Hardy as a down-and-out journalist who’s invaded by an alien life force that gives him super strength, pulled in $80 million in North America — hefty numbers compared to the previous record for an October opening, which was 2013’s Gravity, with $55.7 million.

And A Star Is Born delivered $41.25 million over the weekend — much higher than initial projections — along with the coveted “A” Cinemascore, which bodes well for the movie’s word-of-mouth prospects. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is the fourth version of a film that has previously starred icons like Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Janet Gaynor; this version stars Lady Gaga alongside Cooper. Strong critical reviews also will likely set the film on the path to plaudits during the upcoming awards season.

Venom didn’t fare nearly as well with critics (it’s currently sitting at 35 out of 100 on Metacritic), and audiences awarded it a B+ Cinemascore. That’s the same grade given to Justice League and Suicide Squad, which both dropped more than 55 percent in ticket sales in their second weeks. It could be an indicator that Venom won’t have a strong second weekend — though the dearth of other comic book movies currently in theaters could potentially give it a continued boost as awards season counterprogramming.

To that point, the two movies drew very different audiences over the weekend: Venom’s was 59 percent male, while A Star Is Born’s was 66 percent female; 36 percent of Venom’s audience was 25 or older, compared with 86 percent of A Star Is Born’s.

That gap in target audience didn’t stop some Gaga fans from campaigning (some with more irony than others) to sink Venom via fake reviews last week. But as the numbers show, it didn’t matter in the end: The massive opening-weekend success of both movies, in tandem, led to the biggest October weekend of all — and may bode well for the robust movie season ahead.