A Friday night Halloween may be good for weekend sugar rushes, but it's hardly sweet for Hollywood.
The calendrical coincidence meant all the major studios stayed away from new film releases this weekend. That allowed Universal's second-week holdover (and Halloween-oriented spookfest) "Ouija" to win the day with a modest $3.5 million.
Creeping in just behind it was one of two new releases, Jake Gyllenhaal's "Nightcrawler." The noirish comedy from upstart Open Road took in a studio-estimated $3.2 million, sufficiently close to "Ouija" that it is expected to win the weekend when the latter falls off on Saturday and Sunday. Coupled with $500,000 from Thursday night screenings, the Friday tally puts Dan Gilroy's "Nightcrawler" on pace for a $12 million-$13 million weekend -- respectable for the modestly budgeted (under $10 million) production, if hardly a world-beater as weekend winners go.
Gyllenhaal's previous release -- Denis Villeneuve's similarly fall-opened, genre-inflected "Prisoners" -- took in $21 million in its first weekend on its way to a $60 million total. That film also won its opening weekend, which means "Nightcrawler's" probable top-grossing status will mark the third straight weekend win for Gyllenhaal (David Ayer's "End of Watch" preceded "Prisoners"), cementing his position as a kingmaker of sorts for the midbudget, auteur-driven genre piece.
The other two new openers this weekend, the Nicole Kidman-Colin Firth psychological thriller "Before I Go to Sleep" and Lionsgate's 10th anniversary "Saw" re-releasee both flopped, with $600,000 and $300,000 Friday totals, respectively.
The last time "Halloween" fell on a Friday, in 2008, second-weekend holdover "Saw V" came out ahead of all other entrants with $3.1 million, finishing the weekend with $10 million. The biggest new opener for the day was Kevin Smith comedy "Zach and Miri Make a Porno" with an unassuming $2.1 million.
In contrast, the final weekend of October 2013, whose Friday fell a safe distance from Halloween on Oct. 25, saw "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" take in a stellar $13 million on Friday and win the weekend with $32 million.
Further down the top five on Friday, the Brad Pitt World War II movie "Fury" came in third with $1.9 million, giving it a total of $53 million in its third weekend of release. The film is on pace to fall short of Pitt's fall prestige release "Moneyball" three years ago ($76 million), but "Fury's" eventual total will catch 2008's "Burn After Reading" ($60 million) and 2013's "12 Years A Slave" ($56 million).