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'Halloween' slays the box office in the latest killing for horror genre

'Halloween' slays the box office in the latest killing for horror genre
Jamie Lee Curtis returns to her iconic role as Laurie Strode in this sequel to "Halloween." (Ryan Green / Universal Pictures)

Universal's revival of the iconic horror franchise "Halloween" made a killing at the box office this weekend, scaring up a franchise-best $77.5 million and breaking opening weekend records, according to figures from measurement firm ComScore.

The film’s debut marks the second biggest horror opening weekend of all time (second only to "It," which opened to $123.4 million in September 2017) and the second biggest October opening weekend ever (behind "Venom," which debuted to $80.2 million just two weeks ago).

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The sole new wide release of the weekend, "Halloween" outperformed analysts’ advance predictions of $60 million. After a giant $33.3 million Friday gross, some were projecting over the weekend that the film could actually exceed $80 million and top the “Venom” record, but final estimates came in just a bit short of that lofty target. Internationally, the film brought in an additional $14.3 million from 23 territories and earned $91.8 million globally.

A direct follow-up to John Carpenter's 1978 original, "Halloween" ignores the 10 sequels and reboots created in the 40 years since Jamie Lee Curtis originally starred as Laurie Strode, the final teen alive at the end of monstrous Michael Myers' killing spree. This time around, Strode is prepared when Myers escapes a mental institution and rampages through her small town, especially since the lives of her daughter and granddaughter hang in the balance.

"The debut for 'Halloween' is exhilarating," said Jim Orr, the studio's distribution chief. "And a testament to the really incredible job that the filmmakers did, the talent involved, led by the indomitable Jamie Lee Curtis… combine that with our best in industry marketing publicity and that came together to really make 'Halloween' a social event at the domestic box office."

The film, which is directed by veteran indie filmmaker David Gordon Green and co-written by Green, actor Danny McBride and their “Vice Principals” collaborator Jeff Fradley, earned positive reviews from audiences and critics with a B+ rating on CinemaScore and a 80% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a rare feat for a slasher flick.

Orr, who credits the resurgence of the horror genre to "our great partners at Blumhouse," could not say definitively whether there would be sequels to come.

In second place, Warner Bros.' "A Star Is Born" continued its charmed run with $19.3 million in its third weekend for a cumulative $126.4 million.

Also in its third week, Sony's "Venom" landed at No. 3 with an additional $18.1 million in ticket sales for a cumulative $171.1 million. While the studio’s "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" claimed fourth place with $9.7 million in its second weekend for a cumulative $28.8 million.

Rounding out the top five, Universal's "First Man" added $8.6 million in domestic receipts in its second weekend for a cumulative $30 million. The 46% decline from last weekend is surely more than the studio would have liked for an adult-skewing prestige picture with awards season ambitions.

In contrast to the wide release of “First Man,” many of the season’s awards titles have gone the route of slow expansions. Two of those paid off with solid results this weekend as the films entered wide release after building word of mouth in fewer theaters. Fox's topical YA adaptation "The Hate U Give" expanded into 2,055 additional theaters (for a total of 2,303) and earned $7.5 million in its third weekend of release, a 332% increase, and a cumulative $10.6 million.

Fox Searchlight's Robert Redford vehicle "The Old Man & the Gun" also expanded into 574 additional theaters (for a total of 802), earning $2 million in its fourth weekend, a 123% increase, for a cumulative $4.2 million.

In contrast, the wide expansion of Annapurna's "The Sisters Brothers" into 1,012 additional theaters (1,141 total) fell flat, with just $742,014 grossed, a pitiful per-screen average of $650. The film has earned $2 million in five weeks, and adds to the recent run of troubles Annapurna has experienced as the prestige production company attempts to build up its distribution arm.

Despite modest success this summer with the Sundance acquisition “Sorry to Bother You,” Annapurna has seen more disappointing results from films including last year’s “Detroit” and “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.” The studio will next release Barry Jenkins’ much lauded “Moonlight” follow-up “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” and the Nicole Kidman vehicle “Destroyer.”

In another sign of how the current glut of sophisticated titles for adults is leaving some movies out in the cold, Fox’s "Bad Times at the El Royale" experienced a fairly sizable drop of 54% in its second weekend. The ensemble period thriller, a film that is both difficult to categorize and not based on any preexisting material, took in $3.3 million in its second weekend to land at No. 9. Writer-director Drew Goddard’s film has grossed $13.3 million domestically to date.

In limited release, A24's "Mid90s," directed by Jonah Hill, opened in four theaters to an impressive $249,500 and a per-screen average of $62,375. That’s the third highest opening weekend average of the year following National Geographic’s breakout documentary “Free Solo” and A24’s own coming of age title “Eighth Grade.”

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Fox Searchlight’s Melissa McCarthy drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?" is off to a solid start with $150,000 earned across five locations, a strong per-screen average of $30,000 — a performance slightly above what the studio’s “Old Man & the Gun” opened to last month.

Amazon Studios expanded "Beautiful Boy," an addiction drama that has earned Oscar buzz for Timothée Chalamet, into 48 additional theaters in its second weekend to a respectable $439,056, a per-screen average of $9,157 and a cumulative $722,006.

Next week, Universal bows the comedy sequel “Johnny English Strikes Again,” Lionsgate premieres the action thriller "Hunter Killer" and Pure Flix opens the drama "Indivisible." In limited release, Amazon Studios reveals the horror remake "Suspiria."

10:30 a.m.: This article has been updated to include more box office figures from the weekend.

This article was originally published at 9:20 a.m.

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