Five Nights at Freddy’s partied hard on its first night in theaters.
The latest horror offering from Universal and Blumhouse scared up a massive $10.3 million in Thursday previews at the domestic box office. That’s on par with New Line’s It: Chapter Two ($10.5 million), which debuted to a record $91 million in 2019, not adjusted for inflation. And it’s notably ahead of Blumhouse/Universal’s Halloween ($7.7 million), which also smashed records when opening to $76.2 million in 2018, as well as Halloween Kills ($4.9 million) and Halloween Ends ($5.4 million), not adjusted for inflation. It also trumped Jordan Peele’s Us ($7.4 million).
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Freddy’s is tracking to open to $45 million to $50 million, a huge sum considering that the movie is being released simultaneously on Universal’s sister streaming service, Peacock (only paid-tier subscribers will have access). Others think it will do notably more, a premise backed up by the preview gross. But no one knows yet how front-loaded the film is.
Universal insiders say the decision to do a day-and-date release is a win-win for the overall ecosystem. Those who want the communal experience of watching a horror movie in a theater can do so, while Peacock can woo much-needed subscribers. (Apparently, streamers see notable growth in October because of Halloween-themed offerings.)
Before the pandemic, most theaters would have outright refused to book a title already available in the home. The COVID-19 crisis changed everything, however, with the traditional 72- to 90-day theatrical window shrinking dramatically to as little as three weeks for films that open to less than $50 million. Day-and-date releases aren’t the norm, but no cinema operator was going to refuse to play Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Directed by Emma Tammi, Freddy‘s stars Josh Hutcherson as a washed-up security guard who has no choice but to take a crappy job safeguarding a long-shuttered family-themed pizza restaurant. The only problem — the pizzeria’s giant animatronic animal characters spring to life and go on murderous rampages. He’s also trying to maintain sole custody of his 10-year-old sister (Piper Rubio) and prevent her from falling into the clutches of their Aunt Jane (Mary Stuart Masterson).
Things go from bad to worse when a group of local toughs hired by Jane break into Freddy’s while Mike is off-duty to trash the joint so he’ll lose his job. Needless to say, the giant animatronic animals don’t like the intrusion.
Kat Conner Sterling and Matthew Lillard also star. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop created the animatronic characters.
“There has been perhaps no other category of film that has enjoyed the cinematic history, enduring popularity and box office consistency as the horror genre, and this weekend will continue the tradition with Five Nights At Freddy’s set to scare up one of the best, if not the best, horror debut of 2023,” says box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, which only plays Thursday-Sunday, has grossed a record $132 million domestically and $46.8 million overseas. The movie is tipped to earn another $12 million to $15 million.
Martin Scorsese’s adult-skewing Killers of the Flower Moon hopes to enjoy a strong hold in its second weekend after opening to $23.2 million domestically. The movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro, should pull in $12 million.
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