At this moment in time, ‘A Star Is Born’ has earned $44.255 million in North America and $57m worldwide. It’ll have a slow rollout overseas, but the $36m-budgeted romantic drama will likely be able to become profitable just from domestic theatrical alone. So yes, Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc. and MGM’s remake of an oft-remade movie (this is the fourth or fifth version, depending on if you count 1932’s What Price Hollywood?) is likely going to be a hit.Moreover, the debut weekend has cemented it as the movie to beat at next year’s Academy Awards. It was a front-runner heading into the weekend. Now it is the front-runner, and it may remain so for the rest of the season.Does that mean it will unquestionably win the Best Picture Oscar? Absolutely not. We’ve seen many season-long front-runners, like (just recently) Brokeback Mountain, The Social Network, Boyhood and La La Land, fall behind at almost the very last moment. The movie that wins the race is the movie that’s winning when the runners run out of track.But the good news is that the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga musical is the movie to beat. The bad news is that, with three months until nominations and four months until the actual awards ceremony, it’s going to be the one that needs to be taken downBut the good news is that the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga musical is the movie to beat. The bad news is that, with three months until nominations and four months until the actual awards ceremony, it’s going to be the one that needs to be taken down. In terms of popular appeal and financial success, there likely won’t be a bigger contender for the rest of the year.In terms of pure grosses, there isn’t another major studio release of this nature that’s going to pull down a $43 million+ Friday-Sunday frame. Damien Chazelle’s (also very good) ‘First Man’ opens next weekend courtesy of Universal/Comcast Corp. ‘If A Star Is Born’ is ‘Gravity’, then the Ryan Gosling-starring Neil Armstrong biopic is ‘Captain Phillips’. That star-centric Tom Hanks drama went up against the Sandra Bullock/George Clooney giant in its second weekend and still snagged a $25m debut and a $100m+ domestic total. Other than that, aside from (I dare not hope) Fox 2000’s masterpiece ‘The Hate U Give’ going bonkers when it goes wide on Oct. 19, the rest of the contenders are on a different plane.The only conventionally commercial Oscar contenders left are ‘Widows,’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and maybe ‘The Mule’. ‘Welcome to Marwen’ is likely going for holiday bucks over awards, although ‘Green Book’ could break out over Thanksgiving. ‘On the Basis of Sex’ (a Ruth Bader Ginsberg biopic) and ‘Vice’ (a Dick Cheney biopic) may be mainstream hits or may be doomed to be more written about than seen. But most of the films in question, including the likes of ‘The Favourite,’ ‘The Front Runner,’ ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ ‘Mary: Queen of Scots,’ ‘Vox Lux’ and Netflix’s ‘Roma,’ would each arguably be thrilled to gross $43 million total let alone $43m over their respective domestic opening weekends. Now that’s presuming that something like Walt Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ or MGM’s ‘Creed II’ doesn’t turn out to be a next-level masterpiece, but I digress. If ‘A Star Is Born’ earns even a 2.9x multiplier from its $44.255 million debut weekend, then we’re looking at a domestic total of $128m domestic total. And between you and me, I’d be slightly surprised if it wasn’t noticeably leggier. So, barring a fluke, it’s looking pretty likely that, among likely Best Picture nominees, ‘A Star Is Born’ will be the first or second-highest-grossing (depending on if Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ gets in) nominee this year. And while box office isn’t everything (‘The Hurt Locker,’ ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Spotlight,’ etc.), it’ll mean something here.In a year when the Academy flirted with making a new category for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film,” ‘A Star Is Born’ is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too contender. It will have the box office to show itself to be a true-blue popular blockbuster while also having the rave reviews, white-hot audience buzz and awards-friendly narrative. It is about showbiz (‘Argo,’ ‘Birdman,’ ‘The Artist,’ etc.), it features a popular male movie star coming into his own as a director (‘Dances with Wolves,’ ‘Ordinary People,’ ‘Argo’), and a meta “life imitates art” factor of Lady Gaga going from acclaimed pop musician to acclaimed dramatic actress. It’s also aspirational in that it’ll be an adult-skewing drama that pulls tentpole-level domestic earnings.We may see an underdog alternative (‘BlacKkKlansman’?) that morphs into a popular favorite right before voting closes. And I imagine everyone is bracing for a post-release backlash. To its credit, the film avoids certain problematic areas. For example, Ally goes up on the stage of her own free will, the movie doesn’t scorn her success as a pop star (or argue that her success caused her lover’s career downfall) and Jackson gets the full blame for his poor choices. Nonetheless, there may be some backlash to a season presumed to be filled by more diverse movies being now dominated by a flick starring a rich white male movie star and a wealthy white female pop icon.None of this will affect the film’s general audience reception. Moviegoers still flocked to the likes of ‘La La Land’ or ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ even after the Oscar-season backlashes took hold. This entirely theoretical post-debut reassessment, which may or may not actually happen (and part of that will depend on what other movies end up in the cut in the major categories), is entirely about the film’s awards-related fate. But if the film’s reputation remains intact, it will be awfully tough to beat. It will have the reviews, the box office, the word-of-mouth and the media-friendly narratives all in one 135-minute package.It’s not my favorite film of the year (it’s not even my favorite film of last weekend), but it personifies the kind of movie of which we all say Hollywood should make more. It’s an R-rated romantic drama aimed at adults, one that isn’t banking on IP and is instead betting on reviews, word-of-mouth and old-school star power. At this admittedly early juncture, this season’s Best Picture Oscar is ‘A Star Is Born’s’ to lose.Published in Daily Times, October 11th 2018.