Sony’s Venom no longer has any major box office competition in October. The studio has bet the house on Venom, which is intended to launch a new shared universe featuring Spider-Man secondary characters. If Venom proves to be a box office success, then viewers can expect other spinoffs such as Morbius, Silver & Black, and Silk. If it doesn’t perform well, then Sony’s plans could potentially come crashing down. With so much riding on one film, the studio understandably chose a release date with as little competition as possible (no easy task in a year increasingly packed with big-budget tentpoles). Luckily for Venom, however, what little competition there was seems to be slipping away.
The most direct competition was Andy Serkis’ Mowgli, a “faithful” adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Serkis’s pitch is darker than Disney’s films, and has a great cast – including the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, and Christian Bale. Unfortunately, it has only been two-and-a-half years since Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book took the world by storm. As a result, Mowgli had long been expected to underperform, and Warner Bros. has taken the unusual step of pulling it from theaters outright. Instead, Mowgli will release straight on to Netflix. For Warner Bros., it avoids the gamble of an expensive theatrical release for a movie with poor prospects, and means they’re able to focus marketing on A Star is Born, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and Aquaman.
Mowgli’s departure from the box office is very good news for Venom. The film is expected to be a blend of superhero action and classic horror tropes, although it may not actually be R-rated after all; the Sony panel at SDCC suggested the studio is aiming for a PG-13, and producer Avi Arad insisted in a recent interview with Vulture that “Kids love Venom.” If that’s the case, then Venom’s only real competition for October is Damien Chazelle’s First Man, starring Ryan Gosling as Noel Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon. The concepts are so different that they shouldn’t affect one another. Halloween is the next major horror, releasing on October 19, but that’s going to have a higher age-rating and so shouldn’t put too much of a dent in Venom’s box office.
In theory, October could yet become a little busier; there are a lot of major releases in December, including the Warner Bros. Aquaman movie. In practice, however, it’s too late in the day to push a major release forward to October. The marketing campaigns for the December releases are kicking into gear, with the first Aquaman trailer dropping at San Diego Comic-Con. What’s more, major films like that tend to continue post-production until only very close to the theatrical release, so pushing a December release back to October would mean a visual effects rush-job (which Aquaman really can’t afford). With that in mind, it’s unlikely Venom will find itself facing any increase in competition.
Even with this boost, it remains to be seen whether or not Venom will be a box office hit. Audiences were initially skeptical – especially after the first teaser trailer didn’t even show a glimpse of the Venom symbiote. But the first full trailer was moderately well-received, becoming the most-viewed in the entire Spider-Man franchise. Another trailer is expected soon, and hopefully that will be followed up with a strong marketing campaign. Ultimately, though, everything will depend on the quality of the product. In the absence of any real competition, good reviews and positive word-of-mouth will likely make or break this film.