Focus Features-Amblin Horror Movie ‘Come Play’ Climbs To $3M+ Over Halloween Pandemic Weekend – Sunday Update

Anthony D'Alessandro
·11 min read

SUNDAY AM w/chart: Focus Features/Amblin’s PG-13 horror movie Come Play came in better than expected, seeing a boost on Halloween night (as opposed to an expected -5% drop) with $1.3M, +18% over Friday + preview’s $1.1M. This puts the pic’s opening weekend at $3.15M in the No. 1 spot.

One industry insider tells me about the boost, “Look at what happens when you spend on TV, people actually come; no studio has really figured out digital spending yet,” and I hear the last five days Focus spent on national TV spots. That’s also the reason why Tenet‘s Labor Day opening weekend grosses (between $9M-$10M estimated) weren’t so vibrant: Warners curbed its TV spending, opting for more digital. How are you suppose to generate box office if you’re not telling audiences about your movie? Notable TV spend equals notable theatrical ticket sales.

It should also be heavily noted that, to date, there haven’t been any COVID-19 related cases traced to movie theaters. The mind boggles at how exhibition, with all its socially distanced safety protocols, is getting a bad PR rap from government health officials, i.e. in LA and NYC, while air travel is getting glossed over as being the safest thing to do during the pandemic. Isn’t that why Airborne, the vitamin mix, was created?? Because several people would get sick from re-circulated air on an airplane? I returned last weekend from JFK NY on JetBlue, and the airline was beginning to fill middle seats and pack passengers in (which I hear American Airlines is notorious for doing). This was topped off by LAX being an actual zoo –with zero social distancing at the gates– last Sunday afternoon. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Governor Newsom, you may want to check LAX out, and quit punishing exhibition. Seriously, get a grip because social distancing in movie theaters with masks isn’t spiking cases. It’s continued small gatherings and the out-of-control situation at LAX.

There are no comps during the pandemic, especially with theaters curbing showtimes and hours. Focus Features Distribution Boss Lisa Bunnell explains: “Come Play became an alternative on Halloween,” given how, in a number of areas of the country, trick-or-treating wasn’t an option.

When one thinks about it, even when theaters were largely closed over the summer, there were many genre pics, largely from IFC, that played at drive-ins and those independent multiplexes bare-knuckling it. Much of that has to do with the fact that the pics are very economical plays, with low P&A spends that distributors can afford right now during the pandemic. The financial concern is if you spend really big now with New York and LA closed, you’re not going to see a payoff. Hence why all these big IP tentpoles are being postponed. Not to mention, as Bunnell points out, horror is “escapist” entertainment. That’s why we’re see so much of it.

She adds, “We’re thrilled that audiences came out to celebrate Halloween making Come Play the #1 movie this weekend. We had a great partnership with our friends at Amblin to bring Jacob Chase’s new vision of horror to the screen.”

Come Play filmmaker Jacob Chase beamed, “Having my first studio movie be released to this wide of an audience is a really special experience. Moviegoers all across the country have had a chance to see this film that I, along with the entire cast and crew, put so much heart and empathy into. While it isn’t exactly how we pictured the movie coming out when we made it, I’ve been remarkably impressed with Focus getting it into so many theaters safely during COVID. Wear your masks and keep your fellow humans safe!”

Come Play’s #1 hard-top theater gross for the weekend was at the AMC Orange, with $11,942, where the film’s monster, Larry, a full size puppet made by the Jim Henson Company, is on display. The Mission Tiki is also in the Top 10, where there is a drive-through photo-op for moviegoers. The best market share was in Dallas, followed by New York (even with NYC theaters still closed), while the best per-theatre average overall was in Sacramento at Sacramento 6 DI with $12,170.

Overall top DMA markets were Dallas (4.1%), New York (3.8%), Chicago (3.2%), Houston (2.9%), Los Angeles/Orange (2.7%), Philly (2.5%), San Fran (2.4%), Detroit (2.2%), Atlanta (2.0%), and Salt Lake City (1.8%).

PostTrak exits updated showed females at 52% and at 64% under 30 years old, which is what you’d expect for a PG-13 horror movie. Amblin financed this movie from The Picture Company, which cost under $10M and had a P&A spend in the high single digit millions for opening weekend.

Some of examples of Come Play‘s marketing campaign:

A custom Snapchat Lens, as that social portal is aimed at the pic’s prime demo of teens, whereby users could tap a lens of Larry, the pic’s antagonist. There was a virtual premiere with Chase and the cast, and one final jump scare from monster Larry at the end of the Q&A in partnership with Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria, Daily Dead and Dread Central. Focus created a series of ad banners, ‘Larry Is Following You,’ which made it seem like the monster was stalking one around the internet. There were ‘Larry Just Wants a Friend’ digital videos which showed how the monster yearned someone to relate to, and show how he won’t stop until you finish the book and join him in his world. Chase served up a 60-second film school discussing how the upside to adapting his short film into a feature. And there was a ‘Making a Monster’ featurette which took fans behind the scenes as to how Larry was made at The Jim Henson Creature Shop.

Next weekend, Focus Features has the adult Kevin Costner-Diane Lane drama Let Him Go in 2,000+ theaters. I understand it’s another film that’s part of the Universal-AMC PVOD revenue share deal.

San Francisco, a prime market for Christopher Nolan, finally opened sans concessions and led Tenet‘s 10th weekend gross, repping 10% of the pic’s 3-day, with AMC’s Metreon 16 the city’s top hard top grossing venue. This was followed by 2. Orange County/Greater Los Angeles (~8% mkt share), 3. Greater New York – NY/NJ/CT (~6% mkt share), 4. Seattle (~5% mkt share), 5. Dallas (~3% mkt share), 6. Atlanta (~3% mkt share), 7. Phoenix (~2% mkt share), 8. Salt Lake City (~2% mkt share), 9. Houston (~2% mkt share), and 10. Sacramento (~2% mkt share).

Tenet‘s top 10 locations were 1. Paramount Drive-In (Greater LA DMA), 2. Capitol 6 Drive-In (San Francisco), 3. AMC Metreon 16 (San Francisco), 4. Cinemark Lincoln Sq. 22 (Seattle), 5. Regal Irvine Spectrum IMAX (LA/OC DMA), 6. Sunset Drive-In (Santa Barbara), 7. AMC Roosevelt Field 8 (Greater New York), 8. AMC Alderwood 16 (Seattle), 9. AMC Thousand Oaks (Greater LA DMA), and 10. AMC Orange 30 (Greater LA DMA).

Tenet is in its 67th day of release, meaning at some point the film will seep into its home entertainment window (that date has yet to be announced). Still, when it does, and if NY and LA open, I hear the pic will still play the cinemas in those cities.

Top 10 at the weekend box office for Oct. 30-Nov. 1 per industry estimates:

    1. Come Play (Focus) 2,183 theaters, 3-day: $3.15M/Wk 1

    2. Honest Thief (Open Road/VVS) 2,360 theaters (-142), 3-day: $1.35M (-43%)/Total: $9.5M/Wk 4

    3. War With Grandpa (101 Studios) 2,365 theaters (+20), 3-day: $1.08M (-43%)/Total: $11.3M/Wk 4

    4. Tenet (WB) 1,601 theaters (-200), 3-day: $885K (-32%)/Total: $53.8M/Wk 10

    5. The Empty Man (20th/Dis) 2,051 theaters (+24), 3-day $561K (-57%)/Total: $2.2M Wk 2

    6. Hocus Pocus (Dis) 1,130 theaters (-147), 3-day: $456K (-14%)/Total: $45.8M/Wk 5 of re-release

    7. Nightmare Before Christmas (Dis) 1,222 theaters (-392), 3-day: $386K (-33%)/Total: $77.8M/Wk 3 of re-release

    8. Halloween (1978 ed) 565 theaters (+340) 3-day: $315K (+300%)/Total: $47.6M/Wk 2 of re-release

    9. Monsters, Inc (Dis) 1,237 theaters, 3-day: $232K (-53%), Total: $256.8M/Wk 2 of re-release

    10. Spell (Par) 369 locations, 3-day: $210K/Wk 1

SATURDAY AM: Focus Features has the widest entry at the pandemic weekend box office with Jacob Chase’s PG-13 Amblin horror film Come Play, and therefore the No. 1 movie at the box office, earning $1M yesterday at 2,183 theaters. $150K of that figure came from Thursday previews.

Come Play, which now has a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, centers around a monster named Larry who manifests itself through smart phones and mobile devices.

Come Play is among many genre movies in the marketplace, given the Halloween weekend, in addition to Paramount’s limited theatrical release of Spell at 369 locations and catalog titles such as Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1978’s Halloween, Beetlejuice, Scream, MGM/UAR’s The Addams Family, Poltergeist and a Nightmare on Elm Street.

Typically, whenever Halloween falls on the weekend, such as tonight, you can’t expect much at the box office. That was true during pre-pandemic times, and it looks to be true for this weekend as Come Play is expected to only make $2.5M; Saturday expected to be down around 5% per industry estimates.

Also, with New York City and Los Angeles theaters still closed, distributors aren’t shelling out that much in P&A, and I hear Come Play‘s was in the high single digit million range which is par for the course nowadays for these wide entries (which I understand is still more than what Disney spent on 20th Century Studios’ Empty Man last weekend) and also appropriate for this Gillian Jacobs-John Gallagher Jr. movie which cost under $10M. Come Play, I hear, is part of Universal/AMC’s PVOD deal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will play for strictly 17 days. Still, No. 3 chain Cinemark has booked the title as well, even though the chain doesn’t have a rev share deal with Uni.

Come Play received a B- CinemaScore which is average for a horror movie as that exit poll is traditionally harder on horror movies. That’s better than the D+ earned by Empty Man last weekend. Audiences on Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak rated Come Play around 60%, with a low definite recommend around 40%. Essentially an even split between males and females, with 60% of the crowd being between 18-34 years old. The South and Eastern corridor of the US remain the most active for business, with the most money generating areas being New York DMA, Los Angeles/Orange County DMA, Chicago, Dallas and the newly reopened San Francisco, where concessions are banned.

RelishMix observes there was a shorted runway for the Come Play trailer (but not as short as Empty Man‘s last week, which was strictly one full week of digital promotion), with the first trailer dropped eight weeks ago on Aug. 27. Two studio-owned spots dropped on YouTube yielded 13.7M views, with 86% of those views from a studio-backed promo on the first trailer. On Facebook, video views for 15 videos were 8.9M, with 95% from the first trailer. Focus Features dropped materials on their social media universe of 2M fans, seeing moderate engagement with cross promotion on Amblin’s social channels of 3.1M fans.

In regards to social media conversation surrounding Come Play, RelishMix says it’s “super-mixed,” with “most horror convo for new micro to mid-budget chatter spinning around whether there’s potential to ‘franchise-out’ to become the next Paranormal Activity, Saw, Insidious or A Quiet Place. Plus, chatter on the quality of scares and how many are seen in the marketing materials. Also, whether this latest horror movie seems to offer more originality versus cliches.”

When it comes to moviegoing during the pandemic, RelishMix noticed on social media that “there’s less convo on pandemic shutdown issues, movie re-dates, and the state of exhibition business.” That will come as good news to exhibition, but we’re still not seeing big boosts here at the box office.

Elsewhere in the top 5 at the weekend box office for Oct. 30-Nov. 1 (sans Warner Bros.’ Tenet) per industry estimates:

    1. Come Play (Focus) 2,183 theaters, Fri: $1M, 3-day: $2.5M/Wk 1

    2. Honest Thief (Open Road/VVS) 2,360 theaters (-142), Fri: $460K (-36%) 3-day: $1.55M (-34%)/Total: $9.7M/Wk 4

    3. War With Grandpa (101 Studios) 2,365 theaters (+20), Fri: $391K (-28%), 3-day: $1.34M (-30%)/Total: $11.5M/Wk 4

    4. The Empty Man (20th/Dis) 2,051 theaters (+24),Fri: $182K (-60%), 3-day $617K (-51%)/Total: $2.3M Wk 2

    5. Hocus Pocus (Dis) 1,130 theaters (-147), Fri: $182K (-27%), 3-day: $603K (+14%)/Total: $45.9M/Wk 5 of re-release

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