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‘Halloween’ Scares Up 2nd Best October Debut With $77M+; Record For Blumhouse & Carpenter Canon;

UPDATED, Sunday AM: Universal is calling Miramax/Blumhouse’s Halloween at $77.5 million after a $27.2M Saturday, making it the second-best opening ever for the month of October behind Sony’s Venom ($80.2M). As we’ve known since Thursday night, Halloween is the best domestic opening ever for John Carpenter’s 40-year old franchise, Halloween producer and co-financier Blumhouse topped their 2011 $52.5M start to Paranormal Activity 3, and it’s wonderful reboot for Miramax under CEO Bill Block and chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi who also co-funded and produced the 11th on-screen sequel after having success with last year’s I, Tonya.

Some studios are hyper-sensitive when they miss certain lofty box office marks set by the industry during the weekend, but, man, Halloween‘s opening is nothing for Universal to duck its head about. It’s like saying that a Cody Bellinger home run only flew into the stands instead of out of the stadium. October doesn’t typically do these types of ticket sales at the box office, and for two major openings to occur in the same month, in the same year, speaks to the unprecedented nature of the industry, and what studios are doing to heighten the theatrical experience at a time when they continually fear competition from streaming.

It turns out people still want to go to the movies: ComScore is reporting that October is on its way to a record, counting a $634.3M gross its first 21 days, up 55% over last year and currently 12% ahead of 2014, which repped the October record with $757.1M. Understand that yesterday morning, many studios believed Halloween would do $80M-plus, and the lower total speaks to the front-loaded behavior of horror films: Saturday was down 17% from Friday’s number (including Thursday previews), a tad steeper than the Saturday -10% posted by The Nun and It.

No one expected the fall to be this rich sans the standard $100M-plus event opener (probably Aquaman in December), and the current year-to-date box office is at $9.5 billion per ComScore for the period of January 1-October 21 — raging 11% ahead of 2018, which wound up with $11 billion, and 6% ahead of 2016, which wound up setting the U.S./Canada theatrical ticket sales record of $11.4B. Halloween drove a weekend that saw $168M in business, 72% ahead of the same frame a year ago.

Resuscitating horror franchises had become passe at the box office recently, and in the previous post we dive into what was key in bringing Halloween back to life, namely having the original creator Carpenter around as EP, Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her survivor role of Laurie Strode in #MeToo times, and fresh oxygen breathed into the property by David Gordon Green and Danny McBride.

We hear that Halloween played best in the East and the South, but overall it was excellent across the board with six out of the top 10 runs coming from the West Coast; a $200M final killing for the movie stateside is definitely within grasp. Updated demos are 53%-47% male-to-female, with 72% under 35 years old and the single largest quad being 25-34 at 32%. Overall, under 25 turned up at 41% (who says young people don’t go to the movies?). Diversity make-up was 47% Caucasian, 23% Hispanic, 17% African American and 13% Asian. There wasn’t Imax adding further jumps to Halloween, but the movie had PLF screens that drove 16% of ticket sales this weekend.

In a statement, producer Jason Blum, who is seeing the best opening ever in U.S./Canada for his Blumhouse label, said, “The reception of fans and critics alike is a huge endorsement of the Blumhouse model. Combining legendary source material, the participation of original creators and a fresh take from talented directors and writers who don’t normally do horror films, Halloween brings the franchise back to life in a fresh, relevant and fun way.”

Al-Khelaifi, chairman of Miramax and beIN Media Group, beamed: “Universal, Blumhouse and Jamie Lee Curtis have been wonderful partners in bringing Halloween to market. There are very few films that have had the wonderful mixture of old Hollywood and new trends, seen in Halloween, that together create the excitement for audiences. We look forward to many more partnerships.”

Said Universal domestic distribution boss Jim Orr: “This is an iconic franchise that saw the return of a beloved star, with great writing and filmmaking that is rightfully reflected in the critical and audience reaction, boosted by tremendous marketing and publicity, and released on the best date imaginable. All of this allowed Halloween to become more than just the debut of a sequel this weekend, but rather the weekend event.”

Other studios knew that Halloween was going to own this weekend, so unlike other years they didn’t crowd the third weekend of October with a slew of counter-programming junk that wouldn’t work. Instead, 20th Century Fox expanded their YA feature adaptation of the Angie Thomas novel The Hate U Give, which went from 248 locations to 2,303 earning $7.5M.

Not the most spectacular break for a $23M production, but Fox has been aiming to slowly grow buzz on this feature about a teenage girl who witnesses the killing of her friend at the hands of a police officer. Critics scores at 97% RT and exits of an A+ CinemaScore are enormous, with 64% females turning out, 76% under 35 being the biggest quad, and 29% under 17. The mix was 43% African American, 34% Caucasian, 15% Hispanic, and 8% Asian, with the best play being on the East coast and Midwest and top 10 runs coming along the coast or in Chicago. End result is somewhere in the $20M range stateside. With all the great exits, you’d expect something better, but it’s a drama, which is always a challenge, and if there’s an emotional core here, then there’s something in the pic’s promotion that isn’t pulling in more crowds.

On the Fox Searchlight side, the Melissa McCarthy dramedy Can You Ever Forgive Me? rang up $150,000 at New York’s Landmark 57th St, Angelika, Cinema 1, and Los Angeles’ ArcLight and Landmark for a $30K theater average. Respectable results, but the question remains whether critics at 99% RT fresh are enjoying it better than audiences.

We’ll see as it widens.

Among specialty fare, A24’s Mid90s from director Jonah Hill saw the third-best opening theater average of the year with $62.3K and $249,5K at New York’s Lincoln SQ, Union SQ and L.A.’s ArcLight Hollywood and Landmark. The latter two bookings had great results thanks to extensive Q&As. New York results were very respectable.

IFC’s Paul Dano-directed movie Wildlife posted a $26,400 off New York’s IFC Center and Lincoln Center and

Hollywood’s ALH, & Landmark. New York was pumped by Q&As, while Los Angeles’ results were mediocre. $105,600 three-day here.

Below the top 10 films per studio’s Sunday estimates:

UPDATED, Saturday 7:33 AM writethru after 12:15 AM post: The 11th sequel in a horror franchise, executive produced by the series’ creator John Carpenter, starring the series’ original actress (Jamie Lee Curtis) in a female survivalist tale that speaks to today’s times seems to be a recipe for box office success.

Weekend estimates for Universal/Miramax/Blumhouse’s Halloween are coming in at $33.2M for Friday (including a great $7.7M Thursday night) making it the second-best first day for a horror movie after It ($50.4M), on a killing spree to become the second-highest domestic horror opening of all-time at $80.5M (also behind It’s $123.4M) and the biggest opening of October, upsetting Venom‘s $80.2M record from three weekends ago. As we’ve mentioned, so far the box office trajectory many are using for Halloween is roughly akin to The Nun and It with Thursday previews accounting for 23% of Friday’s ticket sales, a Saturday that’s down in the low double digits (-10% to -15%) and a Sunday that’s down in the 35%-40% range. More amazing? Halloween isn’t getting any goosing from Imax which propped the opening weekends for It and Nun.

Also as we already mentioned, it’s a record weekend for the Carpenter franchise, Blumhouse (their last record debut being Paranormal Activity 3 at $52.5M) and a great launch for the revived Miramax under Bill Block and Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

There was a huge horror reboot craze in the wake of Platinum Dunes/New Line’s 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre ($28M, $80.5M domestic), the wake of which saw dusty slasher properties in the hands of edgy directors. In that case it was German director Marcus Nispel, and in the case of Halloween it’s filmmaker David Gordon Green, and Danny McBride as EP/screenwriter, giving the 40-year old universe an auteurish tone combined with McBride’s dark sense of humor. More reboots followed in the wake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, like 2005’s Amityville Horror ($23.5M opening, $65.2M domestic), 2009’s Friday the 13th ($40.5M opening, $65M domestic), 2010’s Nightmare on Elm Street ($32.9M opening, $63M) and even 2007’s Halloween ($26.3M, $58.2M) — all of them repping opening records in their franchises. But the craze died out to the point where Paramount pulled the plug on a Friday the 13th movie a few years ago; its Rings last year was DOA with a $13M opening. Meanwhile Weinstein’s Amityville: The Awakening skipped a full theatrical play after several release date changes, and went the theatrical/VOD release on Google Play.

What’s the difference here in resuscitating Halloween? Involving the franchise’s original creator Carpenter, star Curtis as an EP and, yes, Malek Akkad who owned partial rights with the Weinsteins, and whose late father Moustapha Akkad produced the Halloween movies from 1978 to 2002. Such attachments speak to the brand’s core fans who show up at the theater, and bring their kids and future generations as well. It’s a reboot plan not unlike what Universal executed with Jurassic World with that series’ original director Steven Spielberg still serving as EP and Disney with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its original stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher. In fact, Disney, maybe you want to reconsider killing off Han Solo and Luke Skywalker? There’s a business nowadays in classic franchises including their original stars; that could help with future Star Wars sequels. It’s what Paramount and Skydance are currently doing with Terminator, with Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger both returning at the same time since 1991’s Terminator 2 plus series original filmmaker James Cameron in a producing role.

Tonight Halloween gets a B+ CinemaScore, the highest grade for the series since 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection which also earned a B+; that was the last time Curtis played Laurie Strode. On ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak, Halloween is three-and-a-half stars, 75% overall positive with Men 25+ leading the way at 32% followed by F25+ (28%), M25- (31%) and F25- (19%) — the latter who are giving the pic its best scores at 78%. Sixty percent definite recommend with Caucasians repping 47% of all moviegoers, 24% Hispanic, 17% African Americans and 6% Asian. Note these exit polls update throughout the weekend.

Huge attaboy here to Universal’s domestic distribution boss Jim Orr and international chief Duncan Clark. The third weekend of October is typically a place for distributors to toss a bulk of counterprogramming that often pales (last year there were, crazily, five wide releases at this time, four in 2016, and four in 2015). Historically Universal via former distribution vet Nikki Rocco has long preached the belief that when you got the goods, you can play them anywhere on the calendar. The third weekend of October has also proved to work for scary movies looking to leg into the Halloween holiday, which is what Blumhouse has done previously with the Ouija movies and Paranormal Activity 2, 3 and 4.

RelishMix noticed in regards to the positive buzz on social that “fans are discussing the original, how its plot lines up with this 2018 film — and the many chapters of the series between 1978 and how, 40 years later. Lots of horror fans, whether or not they’re ‘all in’ for Halloween, are impressed by the clips and presentation of Michael Myers they’ve seen so far. And, similar to superhero convo, even Halloween fans who aren’t convinced by this latest offering are still saying they have to go to theaters to see it. There are even those suggesting that there should be a rebooted face-off between Myers and other horror favorites, like Jason of the Friday the 13th series.”

Halloween made its initial splash on social last fall when Curtis debuted an image of herself on the famous front porch with Michael Myers lurking. The first trailer launched in June with an eyebrow-raising 23M views in the first eight hours and has clocked north of 160M views to date. Uni lit up word of mouth on Halloween like a bonfire with a world premiere in the Midnight Madness section of TIFF and another screening at Austin’s Fantastic Fest. Halloween‘s social media universe across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube views counts 192.1M, well above the genre pic’s 103M social media universe count. Curtis is the social media leader with 2M followers. Video materials have flown around the internet at an alarming rate of 96:1, compare that to a horror film’s average 13:1 viral rate. RelishMix reports that Halloween is also ahead on average daily new Facebook fans with 3.7K, also ahead of the benchmark 3.3K. Hashtags/tags for #Halloweenmovie and @Halloweenmovie are in the the 26-32k range which is average for a horror pic, but add in the unofficial #Halloween hashtag at over 63k per day, and that throws Twitter activity over 100k per day, which is exceptional. Meanwhile, holdover #Venom continues to fly well in the 55-62k hashtags per day this week.

The Curtis slasher will profit greatly given its $15M production cost split evenly between Miramax and Blumhouse (Universal took overseas rights and is handling the pic for a fee): Blumhouse’s Split off a $9M production, $80M P&A and $278.4M global gross cleared $68M-plus in black ink at the end of the day. Get Out, which cost less at $4.5M, $77M worldwide P&A and $255.4M worldwide box office, earned an estimated $124.8M in profit.

Other notables: Universal/DreamWorks’ First Man has a second weekend of $8.6M, -46%, 10-day of $30M. Uni was hoping for a second weekend hold in the Bridge of Spies range (-26%). Imax is still busy providing rocket fuel to the Damien Chazelle-directed astronaut drama which underperformed with a $16M opening last weekend.

‘The Hate U Give’

20th Century Fox’s expansion of The Hate U Give from 248 sites to 2,303 is landing in 6th place with $7.7M, and running total by Sunday of $10.9M. Production cost was $23M. Could be stronger, but Fox platformed this movie to cut through the big noise of October in hopes of keeping the George Tillman Jr.-directed movie alive through awards season. 96% RT certified fresh score. Four and a half stars here on PostTrak with an 88% overall positive. Females at 65% turnout love it the most at 93%. African Americans rep 44% of current moviegoers, followed by 29% Caucasian, 16% Hispanic and 9% Asian. Big 74% definite recommend here.

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