Taylor Swift isn’t the “marquee character” stepping up to save theaters from a strike-caused theatrical vacuum. Freddy Fazbear, the title antagonist in the popular horror-comedy video game “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is doing his part. The Blumhouse-produced adaptation, produced for $20 million and boasting an all-audiences PG-13 rating, earned a whopping $10.3 million in Thursday preview grosses.
Even if the poorly-reviewed IP adaptation plays frontloaded (think a 20% Thursday-to-weekend split like the “Twilight Saga” sequels), either because it’s “for the fans” or because it’s concurrently available on Peacock, Universal is still looking at a $50 million-plus opening weekend. If it plays anything like a conventional, less-frontloaded film, well, a 15% Thursday-to-weekend split gives it $66 million for the weekend.
Based on a series of comically horrific (or horrifically comical) video games centered on a Chuck E. Cheese-type establishment that kills people, the film arrives in theaters just nine years after the first point-and-click survival video game. Nine years is a lot less time than “The Exorcist,” which tried the legacy sequel trilogy route 50 years after its initial installment.
Its presumed success is a reminder that sometimes Hollywood should try to make new movies based on newer IP aimed at today’s kids versus their nostalgic parents or grandparents. Once upon a time, new-to-cinema franchises based on of-the-moment source material that today’s kids liked rocked and rolled at the box office. There is still value in playing to modern fanbases who want to see a movie of that thing they like, be it “Spawn” in 1997 or “The Hunger Games” in 2012.
As for the movie, it comes courtesy of director Emma Tammi, with a screenplay by Tammi, game creator Scott Cawthon and Seth Cuddeback. Considering the not-incorrect grief Blumhouse got a few years back for not hiring more female directors, there is a certain irony in that a little-known female filmmaker may be responsible for one of the studio’s biggest opening weekends ever alongside “Paranormal Activity 3” *($52 million in 2011) and “Halloween” ($77 million in 2018).
Starring Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Lail, Piper Rubio, Mary Stuart Masterson and Matthew Lillard, the pitch for this one is 104% IP, and it has the benefit of being the *first* “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie. Sure, Nicolas Cage’s “Willy’s Wonderland” covered similar territory in 2021, but that should not more impact this film’s reception than did “Upgrade” opening several months before “Venom.” In this case, Fred Fazbear is a towering butts-in-seats movie star.
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