Universal and Blumhouse’s funhouse thriller “Five Nights at Freddy’s” undercut box office expectations with its monstrous $78 million domestic debut over the Halloween weekend.
Those ticket sales have been particularly good since the horror film hit Peacock, the NBCUniversal-owned streaming service, at the same time. It’s the second-best opening weekend for a day-and-date streaming release, behind Disney’s 2021 Marvel adventure “Black Widow” ($80 million in theaters and $60 million on Disney+) and Universal and Peacock’s hybrid releases. Slasher sequels, 2021’s “Halloween Kills” ($49 million) and 2022’s “Halloween Ends” ($40 million).
Over the weekend, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” was expected to gross at least $50 million, which would have been a big opening for the genre. It’s the biggest horror debut of the year, surpassing debuts from established franchises like “Scream VI” ($44.4 million) and “The Nun II” ($32 million). Among its many records, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” had the second-biggest opening weekend for a video game adaptation, trailing this year’s blockbuster “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($146.3 million).
“The IP is ridiculously popular, and Blumhouse and our director Emma Tammy have done an amazing job translating it to the big screen,” says Jim Orr, Universal’s head of domestic distribution. “The genre lends itself to people who want to enjoy it together.”
Based on the popular video game, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” Josh Hutcherson dropped Chuck E. He plays a night security guard at a chees-esque establishment where animatronic mascots go on a killing spree. The reviews are terrible (it’s 25% on Rotten Tomatoes), but that doesn’t matter because audiences dig the PG-13 movie with an “A-” CinemaScore. Word of mouth could be a flurry to stave off the second-weekend slump that typically plagues horror movies. But despite ticket sales falling off a cliff, the $20 million-budgeted film is already a hit in theaters.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s cracked the code on how to seamlessly bring characters and gameplay elements to the big screen,” said Paul Tergarabedian, senior ComScore analyst. “It’s no surprise that ‘Five Nights’ has made it to this point, just in time for a Halloween release date.”
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” earned another $52 million at the international box office, bringing its global tally 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 2018’s “Halloween ($91.8 million worldwide).
“It’s been a lot of fun while working. Thank you so much to everyone who has been patient with us [“Five Nights at Freddy’s]. We wanted to get it right for the fans,” Blumhouse founder Jason Blum Wrote in X, formerly known as Twitter. “It’s official. The greatest Blumhouse opening movie of all time.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” wasn’t just a hit for Universal and Blumhouse. That’s a significant boost for theaters that are light on treats and heavy on tricks as the SAG strike drags on. Scary movies are especially well-positioned at the box office when actors are unable to promote their projects.
“This type of release isn’t affected by the strike. It doesn’t need red carpets or cast appearances and interviews,” says David A. Gross, who runs film consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “It’s all about great promotional materials and social media.”
It’s a less forgiving time for star-driven films like Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which slumped 61% in its second weekend. The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, is in third place with $9 million from 3,632 locations. So far, it has grossed $40.6 million at the domestic box office and $88 million worldwide.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” must have staying power to justify its enormous $200 million price tag. Despite its unconventional backers (Apple produced the film and gave a film the widest release ever with the support of a streaming service), “Flower Moon” lacks a clear measure of success compared to the average big-budget tentpole. Apple, which has hired Paramount Pictures for distribution, places less emphasis on the box office and sees ticket sales as a way to raise the film’s profile before it hits 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, distributed by AMC Theaters, has not run its week, grossing $149.3 million in North America and $203 million worldwide to date.
In special releases, A24’s “Priscilla” opened strong with $132,139 from four screens in New York and Los Angeles ($33,035 per screen). Directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Kaylee Spaney and Jacob Elordi, the film follows the life of Priscilla Presley and her relationship with rock and roll royalty. The well-reviewed and very different “Priscilla” from Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 kaleidoscopic biopic “Elvis” opens nationwide on Nov. 3.
The lowest opening of the weekend belonged to Focus Features’ drama “The Holdovers,” which earned $200,000 from six theaters ($33,333 per location). Alexander Payne directed the film, and Paul Giamatti stars as a curmudgeon schoolteacher who stays on campus with students who can’t go home for Christmas break. Its footprint is slowly increasing in around 60 theaters in the top 20 markets next weekend.
“Thanks to the fantastic audience response this weekend and throughout the Autumn Festival season, Alexander Payne continues to excel at telling the human stories that connect us,” said Lisa Pannell, Head of Distribution, Focus. “This weekend’s performance gives us hope going into the film’s expansion ahead of the holiday season.”
A lot more to come…