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‘First Man’ Takes on ‘Venom’ and ‘A Star Is Born’ as October Box Office Goes Galactic

After “Venom” and “A Star Is Born” gave October a record-breaking start, a slew of new offerings should keep box office momentum going strong.

Universal’s “First Man” should achieve a solid liftoff when it launches in 3,600 theaters, but the space epic will have to fend off an otherworldly being before it can top domestic charts. “Venom,” starring Tom Hardy as the alien symbiote from Sony’s arsenal of Marvel characters, blew past estimates last weekend with $80 million. The superhero film, which posted the best Monday in October with $9.6 million, will likely win the weekend with as much as $30 million to $40 million in its second outing.

Damien Chazelle’s biographical drama — featuring Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong — is shooting for upwards of $20 million, though some industry analysts suggest “First Man” could reach north of $25 million. The production budget for “First Man” was around $70 million, but tax incentives lowered the cost of the film closer to $60 million. The movie follows Armstrong’s life and the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969. Claire Foy plays Armstrong’s first wife, and Jason Clarke portrays astronaut Ed White. Josh Singer, known for his work on the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” and the Oscar-nominated “The Post,” penned the script, which is based on James R. Hansen’s book, “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong.”

Chazelle’s last box office effort, also with Gosling, was “La La Land,” which won six Oscars. It launched with $9 million when it opened nationwide and finished its theatrical run with $151 million in North America.

“First Man” will also face competition from the sophomore frame of Warner Bros.’ “A Star Is Born.” Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s musical drama opened above expectations with $42 million. It picked up an impressive $6.8 million on Monday, and stellar word of mouth points to a long life at the box office. “A Star Is Born” should earn another $20 million to $25 million this weekend.

Fellow newcomer “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” could also give “First Man” a run for its money if the family film comes in on the higher end of projections. The stand-alone sequel to 2015’s “Goosebumps” is hoping to scare up between $15 million and $21 million when it bows in 3,400 venues. Sony and Columbia Pictures are being more cautious with projections around $14 million. The original movie, also based on R.L. Stine’s popular children’s book series, overperformed with a $23 million start. It went on to earn $150 million worldwide. “Haunted Halloween” carries a much smaller production budget ($35 million) than the first film ($58 million).

Jack Black, who recently toplined Universal’s kid-friendly “The House With a Clock in Its Walls,” reprises his role from the previous film. The follow-up sees two young boys who face off against spooky creatures after they open an mysterious book. Sony is releasing the movie, but unlike the first installment, Village Roadshow Pictures is not involved this time around.

Meanwhile, Fox’s neo-noir mystery “Bad Times at the El Royale” is eyeing a wide range between $8 million and $12 million from 2,500 screens, though some ambitious estimates show it could make as much as $17 million. Drew Goddard, known for his work on “Lost,” “Cloverfield,” and “The Martian,” wrote and directed the thriller, which follows seven strangers who are each hiding dark secrets that come out one night while staying at a hotel at the border of California and Nevada. Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth round out the cast.

As awards season steam picks up, a number of indie titles are arriving at the specialty box office. Amazon Studios is hoping to redeem itself after “Life Itself,” the critically maligned drama from “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman, opened with a disastrous $2 million last month. This weekend, the studio is launching “Beautiful Boy,” a biographical drama starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet. Felix Van Groeningen is making his English-language feature debut with the drama that follows the strained relationship between a father and his teenage son, who struggles with addiction. It premiered to raves at the Toronto Film Festival.

In limited release, Roadside Attractions has Ike Barinholtz’s dark comedy “The Oath.” Tiffany Haddish leads alongside Barinholtz in the satire about a politically divided family at Thanksgiving dinner that goes awry after the government requires citizens to sign a patriot’s pledge.

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