Universal and Blumhouse’s thriller “Five Nights at Freddy’s” beat box office expectations with its domestic debut with a spooky $78 million over the Halloween weekend.
Ticket sales are especially impressive because the horror film was simultaneously released on Peacock, the streaming service owned by NBCUniversal. It’s the second-best opening weekend for a day-and-date streaming release, behind the 2021 Disney Marvel adventure “Black Widow” ($80 million in theaters, $60 million on Disney+) and the best ever for a Universal and Peacock hybrid release, besting the slasher sequel, 2021 “Halloween Kills” ($49 million) and 2022 “Halloween Ends” ($40 million).
Heading into the weekend, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” was expected to collect at least $50 million, which would have been a huge debut for the genre. It’s now the biggest horror debut of the year, surpassing more popular franchise debuts like “Scream VI” ($44.4 million) and “The Nun II” ($32 million). Among its many records, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” also had the second-largest opening weekend for a video game adaptation, behind this year’s blockbuster “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($146.3 million).
“The IP is very popular, and Blumhouse and our director Emma Tammi have done a great job translating that to the big screen,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “This genre lends itself to people who want to experience it together.”
Based on the popular video game, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” stars Josh Hutcherson as a night security guard at an abandoned Chuck E. Cheese-esque establishment, who discovers that the animatronic characters are vulnerable to murder. The reviews are terrible (it has a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes), but that didn’t matter because audiences were looking for a PG-13 movie, which received an “A-” rating on CinemaScore. Word of mouth may be buzzing enough to prevent the second-weekend slump that often plagues horror films. But even if ticket sales decline severely, the $20 million-budgeted film is already a theatrical winner.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s cracked the code on how to seamlessly bring the compelling elements of characters and gameplay to the big screen,” says Comscore senior analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “With a Halloween release date just in time, it’s no wonder Five Nights is performing at this level.”
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” grossed another $52 million at the international box office, bringing its global total to $130 million. It also ranks as the year’s biggest global opening for a horror film, ahead of “The Nun II” ($88.1 million worldwide), as well as Blumhouse’s biggest debut ever, surpassing 2018’s “Halloween” ($91.8 million worldwide).
“It’s so much fun when it works. Thank you all so much for being so patient with us [“Five Nights at Freddy’s]. “We wanted to make it convenient for the fans,” Blumhouse founder Jason Blum said Written on X, formerly known as Twitter. “And it’s official. Blumhouse’s biggest movie opening ever.”
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” isn’t just a triumph for Universal and Blumhouse. It’s a big boost for movie theaters, which have been light on candy and heavy on gimmicks as the SAG strike continues. Scary movies have done especially well at the box office at a time when actors are unable to promote their projects.
“This type of release was not affected by the strike. It doesn’t need red carpets or actors coming out and doing interviews,” says David A. Gross, who runs the film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “It’s about great advertising materials and social media.”
It was a less forgiving time for star-driven films like Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which fell a steep 61% in its second weekend of release. The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, came in third place with revenues of $9 million in 3,632 locations. To date, it has grossed $40.6 million at the domestic box office and $88 million worldwide.
Killers of the Flower Moon needs staying power to justify its massive $200 million price tag. Because of its unconventional backers (Apple produced the film and gave it the widest release ever for a streaming-supported film), “Flower Moon” doesn’t have a clear measure of success compared to your average big-budget hit. Apple, which has hired Paramount Pictures for distribution, is focusing less on the box office and sees ticket sales as a way to boost a film’s profile before it hits streaming.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” again fell behind “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” which added $14.7 million in its third weekend on the big screen. The concert film, which is distributed by AMC Theaters and is not shown during the week, has grossed $149.3 million in North America and $203 million worldwide so far.
Among specialty releases, A24’s “Priscilla” opened 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 film follows the life of Priscilla Presley and her relationship with the King of Rock and Roll. “Priscilla,” a well-reviewed film very different from Baz Luhrmann’s diverse 2022 biopic “Elvis,” will expand nationwide on Nov. 3.
The highest limited opening weekend, ever, belonged to Focus Features’ drama The Holdovers, which grossed $200,000 in six theaters ($33,333 per location). The film was directed by Alexander Payne, and stars Paul Giamatti as a curmudgeonly middle school teacher who stays on campus with students who can’t go home for Christmas break. It’s slowly growing its footprint next weekend to nearly 60 theaters in the top 20 markets.
“As we saw with the amazing audience response this weekend and throughout the fall festival season, Alexander Payne continues to brilliantly tell the human stories that connect us,” said Lisa Bonnell, Head of Distribution at Focus. “Performing this weekend gives us confidence to expand the film before the holiday season.”
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