May 18, 2024

Universal and Blumhouse‘s funhouse thriller “Five Nights at Freddy’s” slayed box office expectations with its scary-good $78 million North American debut.

Those ticket sales are especially impressive because the film landed simultaneously on Peacock, the streaming service owned by NBCUniversal. It’s the second-best opening weekend for a day-and-date streaming release, following Disney’s 2021 Marvel adventure “Black Widow” ($80 million) and the best ever for Universal and Peacock, beating the slasher sequels, 2021 “Halloween Kills” ($49 million) and 2022’s “Halloween Ends” ($40 million). “Five Nights at Freddy’s” also secured the second-biggest opening weekend for a video game adaptation, behind only this year’s blockbuster “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($146.3 million).

Heading into the weekend, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” was expected to collect at least $50 million, which would have been a huge start for the genre. It now stands as the biggest horror debut of the year, surpassing the starts of more recognizable franchises like “Scream VI” ($44.4 million) and “The Nun II” ($32 million). Word of mouth may be buzzy enough to prevent the second-weekend slump that usually plagues horror movies. But even if ticket sales were to fall off a cliff, the $20 million-budgeted film is already a theatrical winner.

Based on the popular video game, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” stars Josh Hutcherson as a nighttime security guard at an abandoned Chuck E. Cheese-esque establishment, who discovers the animatronic mascots are prone to murder. Reviews are terrible (it has a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes), but that doesn’t matter because audiences have been digging the film, which has an “A-” CinemaScore.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” cracked the code on how to seamlessly bring the appealing elements of the characters and gameplay to the big screen,” says senior Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “With a perfectly timed Halloween release date, it’s no wonder that ‘Five Nights’ has performed to this level.”

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” carved out another $52 million at the international box office, bringing its global tally to a killer $130 million. It also ranks as the biggest global opening of the year for a horror film, ahead of “The Nun II” ($88.1 million globally), as well as Blumhouse’s biggest debut of all time, overtaking 2018’s “Halloween ($91.8 million globally).

“It’s so fun when it works. Thank you all so much for being patient with us on [“Five Nights at Freddy’s]. We wanted to get it just right for the fans,” Blumhouse founder Jason Blum wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “And it’s official. Biggest Blumhouse opening movie of all time.”

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” isn’t just a victory for Universal and Blumhouse. It’s a sizable boost for movie theaters, where it’s been light on the treats and heavy on the tricks as the SAG strike drags on. Scary movies have been especially well-positioned at the box office at a time when actors aren’t able to promote their projects.

“This type of release is unscathed by the strike. It doesn’t need red carpets or cast appearances and interviews,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “This is about great ad materials and social media.”

It’s been a less forgiving time for star-driven films like Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which dropped by a steep 61% in its second weekend of release. The movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, came in third place with $9 million from 3,632 venues. This brings its domestic box office tally to $40.6 million.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” needs to have staying power to justify its massive $200 million price tag. Because of its nontraditional backers (Apple produced the movie and gave it the widest release ever for a film backed by a streaming service), “Flower Moon” doesn’t have as clear a metric of success compared to the average big-budget tentpole. Apple, which hired Paramount Pictures for distribution, places less emphasis on box office and views ticket sales as a way to bolster the film’s profile before it lands on streaming.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” again landed behind “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” which added $14.7 million in its third weekend on the big screen. The concert film, which is being distributed by AMC Theatres and isn’t playing during the week, has generated $149.3 million in North America and $203 million globally to date.

Among specialty releases, A24’s “Priscilla” started strong with $132,139 from four screens ($33,035 per screen) in New York and Los Angeles. Directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, the movie follows the life of Priscilla Presley and her relationship with the King of Rock and Roll. “Priscilla,” a well-reviewed and very different take from Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 kaleidoscopic biopic “Elvis,” will expand nationwide on Nov. 3.

The top limited opening of the weekend, ever so slightly, belonged to Focus Features’ dramady “The Holdovers,” which earned $200,000 from six theaters ($33,333 per location). Alexander Payne directed the film, starring Paul Giamatti as a curmudgeonly prep school teacher who stays on campus with the students who can’t go home for Christmas break. It’s slowly increasing its footprint next weekend to approximately 60 theaters across the top 20 markets.

“As we have seen by the fantastic audience reaction this weekend and throughout the fall festival season, Alexander Payne continues to masterfully tell human stories that connect us,” said Focus’ President of distribution Lisa Bunnell. “The performance this weekend gives us confidence going into the film’s expansion ahead of the holiday season.”

More to come…

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