As people of culture have known since the days of the ancient Greeks, there’s no arguing with taste. And that still applies, even when the question of what’s good or bad involves a comic book character who sometimes swallows his foes whole.
In this segment of the MarketFoolery podcast, host Chris Hill and Motley Fool Asset Management’s Bill Barker consider this somewhat shocking box office news: The Columbia Pictures (SNE) release Venom — which pulled an ugly 30% fresh rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes — didn’t merely win the weekend. In fact, it almost doubled the take of the No. 2 film — critical darling A Star Is Born — and raked in $80 million, topping all previous October debuts. The Fools consider what this means for the various studios involved and the movie business broadly.
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A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on Oct. 8, 2018.
Chris Hill: Let’s move on to the weekend box office, which surprisingly had the movie Venom, which had gotten terrible reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Venom is 31%. Venom not only had the biggest opening weekend at $80 million, it had the biggest opening weekend ever for a movie released in October. And October is one of those weird months for the movie industry, where the serious films that are vying for Academy Award nominations and Golden Globe nominations, that sort of thing, they’re held off until really the last six weeks of the year. So, there’s less competition in October. But I remember watching all of the previews for Venom and thinking, as someone who has enjoyed Marvel characters on the big screen, this looks like a movie I have no interest in whatsoever.
Bill Barker: Well, I’ve turned to my daughter, who has the review that I’m relying upon. She saw it last night, which I guess is proof, to an extent, that the marketing worked. She was out there seeing it, despite the fact the reviews were already out that it was no good, she was going to see it. I could read her review, but I won’t. I’ll just skip to the part where, she thinks that they wasted too much time on the science behind symbiosis — this is made up science — and a romantic subplot. And I don’t know why you need a romantic subplot for a monster.
Hill: [laughs] Beauty and the Beast, I mean, that seemed to work. I mean, that’s kind of a tried and true model.
Barker: Yeah. At the end he goes back to being human or something. But I don’t know that my perception of Venom is, “Ooh, I hope he’s able to get the girl. That would be unfair, if a monster with teeth like that doesn’t get a girl by the end of the movie.”
Hill: I’m wondering if this actually portends good things, not just for Sony (NYSE: SNE), because Sony is the studio that put this out. This is the weird relationship with Marvel characters. Even though Disney owns Marvel, Sony has the rights to some characters. So, this is a Marvel character that is actually not part of the Marvel Universe, as we think about with Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Panther, etc. But I’m wondering if this means good things, not just for Sony, but also for movie studios. We’ve been hearing for a few years now that movie studios are going to be going out of business at some point. And certainly, in large part, you have not wanted to invest in publicly traded movie theater stocks. But for movie theaters, if they can pull a few surprises every year like this, I don’t know, maybe it starts to get more attractive.
Barker: Well, it’s an extension of the power of the franchise. I think absent Marvel’s association here, nobody would see this. If it were just somebody’s idea for a symbiote that comes from outer space and decides to wipe out the human race, but then decides not to in the middle of the film for some reason.
Hill: Because he can get the girl.
Barker: Right. You know, love conquers all is always a good turning point in a plot. It’s all the Marvel brand. How far does that go? Marvel is cranking out — as you say, this is Sony, and Fox has X-Men, and the rest of the Marvel Universe is with Disney. But that can only expand so much. If that is the future, more of that brand and more sequels to the things that are already known, it is going to squeeze out the independent stuff more and more into TV, which has not been a bad relationship for TV, to get so much of that work. For the movie theaters to just be spectacles and a couple of Oscar nominees at the end of the year. And everything else is kind of forgettable.