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Sony superhero outdraws Lady Gaga’s starring role

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A POORLY reviewed Marvel movie from Sony Corp. outdrew Lady Gaga’s widely acclaimed remake of A Star Is Born at the North American box office, proving a superhero and lots of special effects still rule the day with film fans.

Venom, a Marvel movie about a symbiotic alien who bonds with a journalist, collected $80 million in weekend sales to open at No. 1 in US and Canadian theaters, ComScore Inc. estimated in an e-mail Sunday. That beat Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in Warner Bros.’ A Star is Born, which garnered $41.3 million to place second.

Analysts have been concerned in recent years that too many superhero movies would lead to costly flops. But Sony, Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox Inc., and AT&T Inc.’s Warner Bros continued to develop comic-book film franchises and the throngs keep turning out.

Sony Pictures has the rights to certain Marvel characters, including Spider-Man, even though Disney owns Marvel Entertainment. Venom is part of the Culver City, California-based studio’s revamped approach to superheroes. It teamed up with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige on a successful reboot of Spider-Man and is planning other spin-off-like films based on characters including Silver & Black.

In Venom, Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock, an investigative journalist trying to expose an unethical scientist who wants to test alien parasites on humans. He becomes infected and develops superpowers, launching the origin story of his symbiotic alter-ego Venom.

The movie cost $100 million to make, before marketing costs, and was forecast to open to with sales $60 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It’s the widest October release ever and topped the previous record $55.8 million debut for the month set by Gravity in 2013.

Critics panned the film’s chaotic plot, with only about 30% recommending it, according to RottenTomatoes.com.

A Star Is Born, on the other hand, drew recommendations from 92% of reviewers, who praised the latest version of a film story that dates back to 1937.

Cooper, a four-time Oscar nominee, co-wrote, co-produced and stars in the film, which also marks his directorial debut. Gaga, in her first feature role on the big screen, plays Ally, a down-on-her-luck singer who falls for Cooper’s alcoholic rock star Jack.

He gives her the confidence and platform to propel her career. But as her star rises, his starts to wane and he is crippled by his drinking.

A Star Is Born cost about $40 million to make. It was set to open with weekend sales of $42 million to $49 million, according to forecasters. — Bloomberg