How Venom is Bonding to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Increase its Crossover Appeal and Make Money
When Sony Pictures’ Venom was first announced, the question on everyone’s minds was, “how do you make a successful film starring Venom, Marvel Comics’ alien symbiote best known as a Spider-Man villain, without Spider-Man?” Then, our questions were answered when the first trailer for Venom debuted. The movie had an October release date that matched its body horror feel, and it circumvented Spider-Man altogether by having the symbiote bond itself to Eddie Brock for its own reasons, turning him into Venom, a super strong monster that dabbled in cannibalism. This was all very awesome. Venom first positioned itself as a film with a visually striking antihero starring Tom Hardy as a monster who was here to eat people. What more could you ask for?
Then, the second trailer debuted, and everyone realized that, actually, they weren’t going in that direction at all. And people decried the new trailer, unsure of what to think about the movie’s newly adopted action-first tone. Negative buzz about the film grew online. Then, the film was hit with even more bad news: prerelease reviews were unkind, to say the least. Rotten Tomatoes’ critic consensus even calls the movie “chaotic, noisy, and in desperate need of a stronger attachment to Spider-Man.” The film was estimated by Deadline Hollywood to need around $450 million just to break even, and with a projected first weekend domestic gross of 60-70 million, it was going to need a miracle to become a financial success.
To everyone’s surprise, that miracle arrived. The film, starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, outperformed expectations, grossing $80.3 million dollars and setting the record for the highest opening October box office weekend of all time. It also outperformed its worldwide box office expectations, pulling in a total of $205.5 million dollars after being expected to nab somewhere between $160-170 million dollars. After its first weekend, Venom was making some impressive money, but there was still the lingering question of if it would prove profitable.
After all, the combination of poor reviews (30% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and bad word of mouth could have sunk the movie in its second week, dooming its hopes of profitability. And the film couldn’t coast off its first weekend alone; it still needed to keep making a lot of money before it would eclipse a 450 million dollar box office gross.
But, seemingly unaffected by the poor reviews or potential bad word of mouth, Venom just kept printing money, dropping only 55% in its second weekend to add 35.7 million dollars to its gross. Venom continued to do well overseas, and is on pace to outperform the most recent Superman solo film, 2013’s Man Of Steel, at the box office (which grossed 650 million worldwide). To date, Venom has grossed over 512 million dollars, and hasn’t even debuted in China or Japan yet. That total is only going to go up, and Venom can be expected to gross a significant amount of money for Sony.
But why does Venom keep webbing up everyone’s money? A Fandango survey revealed that the main reasons people went to see the film were because it starred a Marvel antihero, could eventually crossover with Spider-Man, and because they enjoyed Tom Hardy. So, in other words, the film had a ton of crossover appeal to different subsets of the movie going public.
Venom’s tagline stated that “The World Has Enough Heroes”, and this marketing strategy worked well, capturing people who maybe saw one too many superhero movies and were looking for a different kind of superhero film featuring a character who was more concerned with saving himself than saving the whole world. “If you like a hero who will rescue a kitten stuck in a tree and then eat it, this movie is for you,” the marketing seemed to say. And it worked!
The crossover appeal with Spider-Man has been obvious from the start, and it was speculated that the reason Venom was toned down from its original trailer to its second was because Sony hoped to keep the film more in line with Spider-Man’s PG-13 rating. Tom Hardy even wants the movie to crossover with the Avengers franchise! So, when you look at Venom as the first movie in a shared Spider-Man centered universe, or even as another piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’re drawing ticket buyers not only from fans of Venom, but from fans of Spider-Man and the rest of the Marvel films as well. Marvel hasn’t had a flop yet, and it seems like even a tangential connection to the MCU could be enough to get fans to see other films.
Another huge draw was Tom Hardy himself. Anecdotally, my mom loves Tom Hardy, and had no clue who Venom was. But, she saw the trailer, and, more importantly, saw Tom Hardy’s name attached, and told me she wanted to see the movie (she called it “the movie with the goo monster”). After starring in huge films such as the The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant, Hardy has diversified his portfolio to the point where he has fans from several different genres, and his name is certainly a draw.
Finally, the film picked a near-perfect release date. Venom gave itself two full weeks of runway to cash in, releasing on October 5th. The movie’s only real competition (in terms of a film that would capture the same demographics as Venom, which is to say males over 25) to date came when Halloween debuted on October 18th, which knocked Venom to second place in the box office. But Venom will probably continue to coast until the release of new action-horror film Overlord on November 8th, which will aim to capture similar demographics to Venom.
In short, Venom is making money not because people love the film, but because of its crossover appeal. In today’s times of interconnected universes, nobody wants to miss a film and feel behind. Venom manages to tap into that angst while also providing a big draw in Tom Hardy, and its tangential relation to Spider-Man also allowed it to ride the character’s inherent popularity. Venom is bonding to the MCU and Tom Hardy’s star power in order to become a bona fide financial success.