Thanks to its second weekend in China, Venom has earned over $780 million at the worldwide box office with $210 million earned domestically and $207 million earned in China alone. In short order, the film is expected to top 2016's Deadpool, which earned $783.1 million globally in 2016 and is the highest earning film in Fox's longrunning X-Men cinematic franchise. This also puts the Sony superhero film on track to earn over $800 million worldwide and potentially outperform the studio's Spider-Man, which earned $821.7 million in 2002 and is second only to 2007's Spider-Man 3 as the top Marvel movie outside of the MCU.
The film has been an unlikely runaway hit for Sony, despite reports of a troubled production, lukewarm reviews (the film currently has a critics' score of 29 percent on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes), and a lingering debate over whether the film and its titular antihero are a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or in its own cinematic universe entirely, one lacking the presence of the character's longtime comic book nemesis, Spider-Man. Of course, the key to Venom's surprise success is linked to the lethal protector's own enduring popularity.
Created by writer David Michelinie and artist Todd McFarlane in the pages of 1988's Amazing Spider-Man #299, the extraterrestrial symbiote-powered Eddie Brock quickly became one of Spider-Man's most recognizable and fan-favorite foes. In short order, he starred his own comic book series where he evolved into a hard-hitting antihero and would eventually appear in virtually every animated series based on Spider-Man since created, as well as in a multitude of Marvel video games. A solo film for the character had been planned for years before his live-action debut in Spider-Man 3, though it took until 2018 for the standalone movie to become a reality..
At a time when '80s and '90s nostalgia is running high, and superhero films consistently top the box office year after year, when a desire for less family-friendly movies fueled by the success of Deadpool and Logan struck Hollywood, Venom was in the prime placement for his long anticipated solo cinematic outing. With A-list actor Tom Hardy cast as the eponymous antihero, and delivering the critical highlight of the entire movie with his unhinged performance, the film's ultimate PG-13 rating opened itself up to a wider audience than Fox's R-rated counterparts, and boasted an anarchic and irreverent sense of fun that Warner Bros.' similarly dark superhero outings sorely lack.
There are a couple reasons for the film's record-breaking success in China, where it currently stands as the third highest performing superhero film in the country's history, behind only 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron and this year's Avengers: Infinity War. The movie is the first major Hollywood blockbuster to be released in the country in over a month, after an attempt to restrict foreign releases in order to better position Chinese-produced films. This resulted in nationwide drop of 28% in Chinese box office totals for the six weeks this policy was in place. The six-week drought of foreign films left Chinese audiences hungry for a Hollywood blockbuster, and, fueled by a stunning marketing campaign, Venom happened to be the film that led the charge of American movies back into the country to extremely lucrative success.
The big question now is, how will Venom's chart-topping box office affect Sony's plans moving forward? A sequel is virtually guaranteed, with Tom Hardy having signed on for at least two potential sequels and the film's mid-credits scene teasing a clear path for future films to follow. But looking beyond Venom, the studio's planned solo Morbius film is slated to begin principal photography in February while additional solo films starring various Spider-Man supporting characters including Kraven the Hunter, Silk, Black Cat and Silver Sable are all in various stages of development.
Venom's success has more than likely reinforced Sony's confidence in producing Marvel films traditionally associated with Spider-Man without the webslinger himself necessarily making an appearance. Instead, Hardy's Eddie Brock could serve as the cinematic lynchpin for future Sony Marvel films; the studio's own version of how the MCU's Nick Fury linked together Marvel Studios' Phase One.
The other big question is whether Sony is still keen on having Tom Holland's Spider-Man cross into its fledgling cinematic universe, or if the studio feels it's better suited moving forward without it serving as a potential distraction and logistical headache behind-the-scenes. Either way, it has almost certainly made the likelihood of Marvel Studios acquiring the rights to Spider-Man's supporting cast of villains and antiheroes considerably more difficult as the studio will likely want to keep them for future film projects.
Against all odds and expectations, Venom has become the third highest earning superhero film of the year, topping even the MCU's Ant-Man and the Wasp by a significant margin. Still in theaters nearly two months into its wide release, the film is continuing to earn millions worldwide, on a daily basis. Eddie Brock has evidently give Sony the thing that Peter Parker couldn't: It's very own Marvel cinematic universe.
In theaters now, Venom stars Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Woody Harrelson, Sope Aluko, Scott Deckert, Marcella Bragio, and Michelle Lee.