“Nobody knows anything” is the old adage when it comes to the film industry and variations of that sentiment have often applied to the reporting of box office – though maybe not quite as much as it has in the past six months. The numbers in recent weeks, and particularly this week, indicate a level of normalcy could be coming back to the box office in some respects – especially with Universal’s horror release Candyman over-performing expectations.
(Photo by Parrish Lewis / Universal Pictures and MGM Studios)
Nowadays, we can generally determine the potential of a film’s opening weekend based on its Thursday-night preview gross. In this case, DaCosta’s Candyman began with a respectable $1.9 million last Thursday night, a number that lined up with a number of other horror films’ performances. Here is a list of some of them with their Thursday-night and opening weekend grosses.
That is roughly an average of a $25.8 million opening weekend for these 15 films that opened between $1.55 million and $2.1 million in previews. Not to be found on that list, of course, is any film to open during the pandemic; The Invisible Man is the closest film we have to that and it opened less than two weeks before things truly started shutting down. Thursday-night previews began coming back in April and have come back more full-time since Memorial Day weekend. In that time we have seen Old start with $1.5 million and open with $16.8 million and other horror films bringing in smaller numbers such as The Forever Purge ($1.33 million/$12.5 million), Escape Room: Tournament of Champions ($1.2 million/$8.8 million), and Don’t Breathe 2 ($965,000/$10.6 million).
Candyman, which like all of those films is a theatrical exclusive, bested all of them on Thursday and found itself with a $22.4 million opening weekend. That puts it more in line with the general average we had seen for horror movies prior to the pandemic. Certainly, this is also a one-off that is benefiting from significant name recognition, as did A Quiet Place Part II and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (which, even with HBO Max status, began with $24.1 million), so even the science of numbers suggests we have to wait for more patterns to emerge. Between this strong late-summer start and the continuing success of Free Guy, we may not be back to full pre-pandemic strength but the numbers do not appear to be going in the wrong direction either.
Free Guy continues to be one of the most positive stories of the summer box office. It dropped just 27% this weekend, earning another $13.6 million. How positive is that? It is only the best third-weekend of any film during the pandemic, ahead of A Quiet Place Part II ($12 million), Black Widow ($11.6 million), and F9 ($11.4 million). Free Guy is not going to approach the loftier grosses of those movies and still trails the pace of Jungle Cruise by about $3.5 million overall. But its third weekend bested Cruise’s ($9.1 million) and that film just crossed the $100 million line after making $5 million this weekend. (That itself the second-best fifth weekend behind A Quiet Place Part II ($6.1 million) and ahead of F9 ($4.8 million)). Free Guy may take a bigger hit with Shang-Chi opening next weekend, but with $79.3 million in the coffers so far, it should remain ahead of Godzilla vs. Kong’s pace this week and remain on track to cross $100 million. Its global total stands at $179 million.
Last week’s minor breakout success, Paw Patrol: The Movie, fell back 50% and brought in another $6.6 million this weekend. How does that stack up with fellow kids’ movies also streaming during their theatrical runs? There’s HBO Max’s Space Jam: A New Legacy (fell 69.1% down to $9.5 million in its second weekend) and Tom & Jerry (fell 53.9% to $6.5 million), as well as Peacock’s The Boss Baby: Family Business (fell 44% down to $8.8 million). Peter Rabbit 2, a theatrical exclusive, dropped 39% to $6 million in its second weekend. Paw Patrol’s 10-day haul of $24.1 million puts it ahead of Tom & Jerry’s $22.8 million, but it will likely fall short of the March release’s $46 million total.
The all-time best Labor Day weekend is about to become another of Disney’s conquests as Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens. The film will be the first of Disney’s slate not made available with Premier Access on Disney+ since the pandemic began. Though, even with theatrical exclusivity, Shang-Chi is unlikely to beat Black Widow’s current total of $180 million, even though it could top the box office for three-to-five weeks straight.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]