Weekend Box Office Forecast: Candyman Is Trending for a Late Summer Surprise, Likely to Dethrone Free Guy

Photo Credits: John Guleserian / Universal ("Candyman"); George Richmond / 20th Century Studios ("Free Guy")

Friday Update: Universal reported on Friday morning that Candyman earned $1.9 million from Thursday night’s domestic previews beginning at 7pm in 2,750 theaters.

That figure was 97 higher than Don’t Breathe 2 ($965K), 27 percent higher than Old ($11.5 million), 58 percent over Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, 43 percent higher than The Forever Purge ($1.33 million), and 150 percent north of Spiral ($760K).

Among pre-pandemic comps, Candyman‘s Thursday night figure was generally on par with that of Don’t Breathe, which earned $1.88 million back in August 2016.

More updates will follow throughout the weekend as they’re confirmed by Universal.

Thursday Report: Late summer has been known to deliver its share of hit debuts from the horror genre, and this weekend looks to continue that trend with the release of Nia DaCosta’s Candyman.

The film, a sequel to the 1990s cult classic franchise, has generated a growing wave of momentum in the final week leading up to release. That’s thanks in part to a flow of strong reviews from critics, which registered around 86 percent from 127 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes as of Thursday evening.

Comparison titles have been all over the map in recent weeks as industry tracking tries to sort out the relevancy of pre- and mid-pandemic box office metrics alongside the roller coaster that is consumer sentiment right now. Our own first public forecast for Candyman was trending toward an opening weekend between $9 million and $14 million back in late July, a range that is now almost certainly bearish at this point.

Marketing has provided a big boost to Candyman‘s prospects with the latest trailer release back in June having generated over 60 million views since going online. That followed an already aggressive social strategy from producer and co-writer Jordan Peele back in pre-pandemic times of February 2020, which helped the film trend on major social outlets ahead of the first peak at footage.

Peele’s involvement is a fair asset here. Even though he didn’t direct the film, his following and pedigree after writing and directing Get Out and Us both elevate the profile of Candyman to some extent — especially with a predominately Black cast, an audience that should turn out in strong numbers for the horror revival given its weaving of social issues into a narrative that also promises plenty of jumps and scares.

Those aforementioned late summer sleepers from the horror genre include the likes of 2016’s Don’t Breathe and 2019’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which opened to $26.4 million and $20.9 million, respectively. Social trends and trailer views for Candyman are comparable to those films at the same point in the pre-release cycle.

The remaining X-factor, as always these days, is the pandemic itself. How much of Candyman‘s target audience will opt to wait for a home release — which is likely to happen by the middle or end of September under Universal’s current windowing strategy — due to Delta variant and unvaccinated moviegoer concerns among the more cautious patrons?

It’s still an unknowable answer, prone to shift week by week, but the positive news is that quality and high-profile releases have been attracting audiences off and on all summer. The most recent example, of course, is Free Guy which beat expectations on opening weekend and proceeded to deliver an excellent sophomore frame that saw it drop only 35 percent.

Other films like Jungle Cruise continue to hold well in their chase weekends, a trend previously shared by the likes of F9, Cruella, and A Quiet Place Part II in recent months. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It has also out-legged its 2016 predecessor in terms of sheer multiplier from opening weekend (as has F9 from its own direct predecessor).

Candyman will have the added price boost from premium format screenings this weekend, cutting into some of Free Guy‘s own share (although the latter will retain most of its IMAX screens). Sales in those formats are robust for Thursday night and throughout the weekend, as expected.

If there’s anything weighing down on Candyman at this point, it could be genre fatigue after the glut of horror pics that have hit domestic cinemas this summer — including everything from Spiral to the aforementioned Conjuring threequel, The Forever Purge, Old, Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, and Don’t Breathe 2. There’s not exactly a pent-up demand for the genre itself, but in fairness, most of those films didn’t have the buzz or pre-opening word-of-mouth that Candyman does.

For an industry that continues to endure caution amid fits and starts of recovery at the global box office, this weekend at least looks to provide about as strong a finish to August’s domestic market as could have been hoped for as the back half of summer made it obvious that some audiences will continue taking their time returning to cinemas.

With Candyman aiming squarely for an under-40 and over-15 crowd (though some of those older 1990s fans will show up, too), its target audience is squarely within the youthful range at the heart of some of this year’s best box office performers so far.

Notably, around two-thirds of universities will be back in session nationwide by this Friday, which might aid the film in being slightly less front-loaded to opening shows than this summer’s previous genre films have been.

As far as staying power goes, that will ultimately come down to real-world audience reception. Having a strongly received horror pic in theaters — and mostly competition free, in terms of genre, through September — could bode well for longevity going into the fall and Halloween season.

Opener Forecast Ranges

Opening Weekend Range: $16 – 26 million
Domestic Total Range: $40 – $75 million

Weekend Forecast

Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will decrease between 1 and 15 percent from last weekend’s $59.1 million top ten aggregate.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, August 29 Location Count % Change from Last Wknd
Candyman Universal Pictures $20,000,000 $20,000,000 3,569 NEW
Free Guy 20th Century Studios $10,900,000 $76,700,000 3,940 -41%
PAW Patrol: The Movie Paramount Pictures $6,900,000 $24,800,000 3,189 -48%
Jungle Cruise Walt Disney Studios $4,400,000 $99,700,000 3,370 -31%
Respect United Artists Releasing / MGM $2,500,000 $19,900,000 2,607 -34%
Don’t Breathe 2 Sony Pictures / Columbia $2,200,000 $24,000,000 2,703 -57%
The Suicide Squad Warner Bros. Pictures $1,700,000 $52,300,000 ~2,500 -50%
The Protégé Lionsgate $1,400,000 $5,400,000 2,577 -52%
Reminiscence Warner Bros. Pictures $1,100,000 $3,900,000 ~3,265 -44%
The Night House Searchlight Pictures $1,000,000 $5,100,000 2,240 -65%

All forecasts subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or alternative sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios.

Photo Credits: John Guleserian / Universal ("Candyman"); George Richmond / 20th Century Studios ("Free Guy")
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