This weekend felt like a crucial mid-term for theatrical releases. Between the hybrid release controversies of the summer and the continued lack of attendance for non-IP originals, particularly those aimed at adults, it is still anyone’s guess what we are headed for come the holiday movie season. Barring the return of some new surge of virus infections (at least those numbers are headed in the right direction) people will hopefully feel safer filling seats at their local theaters. They certainly had a choice this weekend between staying home and buying a ticket. The latter won for one film while the former created some dismal numbers for another, casting a shadow over anything not part of a franchise the rest of the year.
(Photo by Universal Pictures)
Before the pandemic, the focus on this weekend’s #1 movie would have been the drop from its predecessor’s $76 million start in 2018. Halloween Kills’ $50 million weekend is a 33.8% drop from three years ago, but even that can be put in a positive perspective looking at other sequel drops of this stature over the years. Among R-rated sequels to films opening over $50 million, 300: Rise of an Empire (36.4%), Ted 2 (38.4%), Paranormal Activity 4 (44.8%), Sex and the City 2 (45.6%), The Matrix Revolutions (47.1%), and The Hangover Part III (51.5%) all dropped further. Alien: Covenant fell 29.1% from Prometheus but didn’t have nearly as far to fall as Halloween Kills did, leaving It: Chapter 2 (26.2%) and Deadpool 2 (5.23%) as the higher standards. The point is that this is a really terrific number for David Gordon Green’s sequel.
$50.4 million is the sixth-best opening of the pandemic. As it marks the third consecutive week of a film opening over $50 million, that statistic may quickly become an afterthought, though it shouldn’t. Where Halloween Kills busted the ceiling this weekend was in the hybrid streaming wars. After it was announced the film would simultaneously premiere on the Peacock service the same day it premiered in theaters, its chances for widespread theatrical success appeared to be kneecapped. The first film was a rather frontloaded success story, posting just a 2.09 multiple over its opening weekend. Halloween Kills may be down 34% from the 2018 opening, but it is up 58% from the year’s best hybrid HBO MAX openings, with Godzilla vs. Kong and Space Jam: A New Legacy each in the $31 million realm. Kong already had a two-day head start with $16.4 million prior to the weekend and to date is the only hybrid release (sans an additional fee) to crack the $100 million barrier. And that was a March 31 release that took over 11 weeks to reach that milestone. Halloween Kills is already halfway there in just three days.
Kills also nearly doubled up The Suicide Squad ($26.2 million) for the best “R”-rated opening of the year in any release strategy. 54 million Peacock subscribers at last count compared to roughly 73 million for HBO MAX. (And those are late July numbers.) The five biggest WB/HBO MAX openings dropped like flies in their second weekends – Godzilla vs. Kong (56.9%), The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (57.1%), Space Jam: A New Legacy (69.1%), The Suicide Squad (71.5%), and Mortal Kombat (73.2%). 2018’s Halloween fell 58.8% to $31.4 million in weekend two, so there’s a good chance Kills falls below $20 million next weekend, especially if people realize they actually have Peacock on their cable service. Those who actually still have cable service.
(Photo by 20th Century Studios)
What may actually be the bigger story this weekend is the continuing failure of non-IP films aimed at adults to draw them in. Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel was speculated to at least get into eight-digit territory this weekend. Its fate was all but sealed when it opened to just $350,000 in previews Thursday night, and the final numbers were even worse than imagined. The historical drama with a cast boasting Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Ben Affleck grossed a mere $4.8 million this weekend. That is less than Damon in Stillwater did this summer ($5.18 million) and the worst start for a Damon-led film opening in over 3,000 theaters. The previous low was We Bought a Zoo ($9.36 million), which nevertheless went on to gross over $75 million over its 2011 holiday season release.
There is a strong chance that The Last Duel will not even be able to leg itself out enough to outgross All the Pretty Horses ($15.5 million) or Stillwater ($14.2 million), leaving it as the third-lowest grossing Damon-led film ahead of only Suburbicon ($5.77 million) and Promised Land ($7.59 million), both of which were released in fewer than 2,050 theaters. The story is far grimmer than anything surrounding Damon’s perceived star power, though. The Last Duel represents a continuing trend in the pandemic box office for anything other than a sequel, franchise, universe-builder, or Disneyland ride to break out among audiences. Free Guy, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Old are the only films outside of those categories to gross over $30 million this year. The Last Duel is about to become the third theatrical-exclusive film released this year in over 3,000 theaters that fails to gross even $20 million.
(Photo by Nicola Dove/©MGM)
No Time To Die missed the opportunity to become the fifth film of the pandemic to gross $100 million in its first 10 days; instead it will take 11. With $24.3 million this weekend (a 56% drop) the 25th James Bond film is just shy of the milestone. That is a slightly better second weekend than F9 had ($23 million), though Bond is still nearly $17 million behind its pace while also about $11 million ahead of A Quiet Place Part II’s 10-day run. The film has a good chance to stick around the Top Five into just before Thanksgiving (and could hang on enough into that holiday) so we’ll stick with a final gross between $160-170 million domestically. Globally the film is over $447 million and could actually surpass F9’s $716 million to become the highest-grossing film of the pandemic era.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage fell to $16.5 million (the second-best third weekend of the year), bringing its total to just over $168 million, still on a very solid pace for $200 million. That is about $5 million below Shang-Chi’s third weekend and overall about $8 million behind its 17-day pace. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings drove its total to over $218 million and is going to settle into the $225 million territory, suggesting that the Venom sequel will come in somewhere around the original Venom’s total of $213 million.
The Addams Family 2, which is also on VOD for $19.99, is not far behind the pace of The Boss Baby: Family Business, which was also streaming on Peacock’s subscription tiers. That animated film finished with over $57 million. Addams looks to be in line to come in between $50-55 million. A24’s odd folktale, Lamb, managed to stay put in eighth place, falling from just over $1 million to $543,000 and driving its total to $2 million. Not too shabby, all things considered, and the studio can put this on its mantle along with the knowledge that David Lowery’s The Green Knight is going to outgross Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel.
(Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures)
38% Halloween Kills (2021)
83% No Time to Die (2021)
57% Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
28% The Addams Family 2 (2021)
85% The Last Duel (2021)
91% Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
80% Free Guy (2021)
86% Lamb (2021)
- - Most Eligible Bachelor (2021)
84% Candyman (2021)
Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]