Weekend Box Office Forecast: Halloween Kills, Holdovers, and The Last Duel Look to Keep October’s Momentum Going

Photo Credits: Universal Pictures ("Halloween Kills"); MGM & UAR & EON & Linus Sandgren ("No Time to Die"); Sony Pictures / Columbia ("Venom: Let There Be Carnage"); 20th Century Studios / Disney ("The Last Duel")

Friday Update: Universal reports this morning that Halloween Kills slashed up $4.85 million from Thursday evening previews in North America, opening at 7pm in 2,950 venues. Meanwhile, The Last Duel scored $350K from previews beginning at 7pm.

The Halloween sequel landed on point with our prior expectations in yesterday’s forecast (below), topping A Quiet Place Part II‘s $4.8 million as the top preview gross of the pandemic thus far and more than doubling Candyman‘s $1.9 million.

This marks the largest preview gross for an R-rated horror film since It: Chapter Two‘s $10.5 million in September 2019. The previous Halloween revival earned $7.7 million from previews at 3,200 locations beginning at 7pm in October 2018. It’s also the largest R-rated preview gross of the pandemic (topping The Suicide Squad‘s $4.1 million).

As for Ridley Scott’s period drama, that film clocked in just north of The Protege‘s $270K and Stillwater‘s $280K. The fall release for Last Duel could help it prove to be more weekend-friendly for target adult viewers than those two proved to be in terms of multipliers at the box office, however, the preview lead-in is still on the short end of what were already very conservative expectations.

More updates to come as confirmed by the studios.

Thursday Forecast: Another important October frame is on deck as the highly anticipated Halloween Kills will provide fans with the first R-rated event horror since 2019, while Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel will make a play for drama-seeking adult audiences.

It will also be the most significant weekend of holdovers yet during the pandemic as No Time to Die aims to post fair retention in its sophomore frame, while Venom: Let There Be Carnage and The Addams Family 2 each hope to maintain notable presences in their third rounds.

Driven by the five marquee titles, domestic box office has a shot to eclipse $100 million for a third consecutive frame for the first time since late January 2020.

Three years ago, Universal and Blumhouse revived the Halloween franchise with David Gordon Green’s 2018 sequel, a direct follow-up to John Carpenter’s 1978 original that ignored all other predecessors and reboots since. The results were overwhelmingly positive as the pic scored what was, at the time, the second biggest October debut in domestic history (now fourth) with $76.2 million just behind the first Venom‘s $80 million earned two weeks prior. Even when adjusted for inflation, that was the most successful debut in franchise history.

As the past two weeks have outlined, pre-release tracking is in constant evolution during the pandemic recovery era. Venom: Let There Be Carnage shattered expectations, while No Time to Die ended up landing on the conservative end of forecasts. These were two different films with different audiences, both with theatrical exclusivity, and each have provided unique insights into audience trends and consumer habits right now.

When it comes to Halloween Kills, the models have an added layer of complexity: a hybrid release. Opening in theaters on the same day as it will be available for Peacock subscribers to stream for free means there could be some portion of the audience that opts to watch it at home this weekend and in the weeks ahead during Halloween season. It’s a factor that’s weighed significantly on all pre-release analysis and forecasts since being announced.

In fact, prior to that minor bombshell spearheaded by Jason Blum, we had been tracking Kills ahead of A Quiet Place Part II‘s $47.55 million opening weekend to become the top horror opener of the pandemic by a fair margin. That benchmark is still on the table thanks to positive box office recovery trends in recent months and the natural theatrical appeal of a mainstream horror event such as this, but the high-end margins have narrowed due to streaming’s uncertain impact on theatrical attendance this weekend.

Based on internal models, Kills is currently tracking at a similar pace as the Quiet sequel and more than double that of Candyman. The latter opened to $22 million back in August.

While we would usually point to the youth audience as an advantage of both the pandemic era and horror movies (especially ones of the Blumhouse ilk), Halloween is a franchise with a significant older viewer base. The previous 2018 film’s opening frame audience turnout was comprised of 59 percent over the age of 25. By comparison, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It — also a hybrid release — drew 59 percent under the age of 25 in its $24.1 million June start.

Interestingly, Universal notes in their pre-weekend report that Kills‘ strongest interest is led by women between the ages of 17 and 34. Overall, women made up 47 percent of the previous film’s opening weekend.

Social media and tracking trends have been encouraging for Kills in recent weeks, if not as robust as those of the 2018 offering. That was never expected, though, as many horror sequels see diminishing returns after such a strong pop the first go-around — including the Halloween series itself in past decades. Still, no horror release has generated the kind of measured interest Kills has since It: Chapter Two, six months before the pandemic began.

Pre-sales are lining up in a similar fashion, pointing to the strongest advance sales of any horror release during the pandemic. In addition, late cycle trends are comparable to the Venom sequel and past horror pics — i.e., back-loaded — which indicates walk-up business should be healthy.

The alignment of confirmed sales with traditional tracking offers more confidence in forecasts than the past two weekends have seemingly provided, although the late on-sale date (just two weeks before opening shows) for Kills and the ever-evolving pandemic market underscore all context for projecting.

Front-loading will naturally be par for the course on this sequel as it was for the last film, which drew $7.7 million from Thursday night previews as part of a $33 million opening day. The best pandemic era comparison seems to be A Quiet Place Part II, which earned $4.8 million from previews as part of a $19.4 million first day. Halloween Kills is trending in line with the latter film, and slightly higher in some models.

Reviews, at 49 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, are decidedly more mixed than they were for the 2018 film. Fortunately for some genre releases, critics’ scores can often be less impactful or suggestive of audience reception than other films.

Kills also has a limited presence in Dolby Cinema auditoriums this weekend, which should prop up earnings to a small extent. The studio expects a domestic weekend bow around $35 million. Our forecast is below.

Also debuting this weekend is Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel in an effort to attract some of the prestige movie crowd that has yet to return to movie theaters since the pandemic began. Part of that is due to continued caution, but it’s also attributable to a lack of content. With star names like Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer (fresh off her Free Guy cinematic breakout) and a strong 88 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, there is some pull here.

Last week’s return of James Bond to the big screen could play a role in bringing back adult moviegoers for this and other films during the months ahead, but that remains somewhat speculative. MGM reported that 25 percent of No Time to Die‘s first weekend audience was coming back for the first time during the pandemic.

The Last Duel, however, does have to contend with the Bond film itself — not to mention rather serious subject matter, a 153-minute run time, and virtually no premium screen presence outside of dine-in theaters. The 20th Century Studios film, being released by Disney, will be exclusive to theaters upon opening.

Among holdovers, the aforementioned Bond film should easily land the runner-up position. The film was more front-loaded to preview shows than its predecessor, Spectre, so all eyes will be on how much of a drop is in store for No Time to Die. The prior Daniel Craig film eased 52 percent in its second weekend in 2015, so a slightly larger decline should be expected this time. No Time to Die will be retaining most of its PLF footprint outside of select Dolby Cinema showings going to Halloween Kills.

Meanwhile, Venom: Let There Be Carnage has already suffered its PLF loss to Bond and managed to come out of it with a respectable 65 percent decline last weekend. Some stabilization should begin now, although it’s conceivable the Halloween sequel’s younger contingent will gravitate away from Carnage this weekend.

Rounding out the expected top five, The Addams Family 2 again faces no direct competition and should reflect that with a healthy third weekend — although it will be coming off a stronger-than-usual Sunday thanks to the Monday holiday past.

Also opening in limited release this weekend is Greenwich Entertainment’s The Rescue at an estimated 575 locations per Showtimes Dashboard projections. We’re not currently offering forecasts on that title, although it could be a dark horse candidate to crack the top ten chart.

Forecast Ranges

Halloween Kills
Opening Weekend Range: $40 – 55 million

The Last Duel
Second Weekend Range: $6 – $11 million

Weekend Forecast

Boxoffice projects between a 5 percent decline and a 5 percent increase for this weekend’s top ten films from last weekend’s $107.2 million top ten aggregate.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, October 17 Location Count % Change from Last Wknd
Halloween Kills Universal Pictures $48,000,000 $48,000,000 3,705 NEW
No Time to Die MGM / EON / United Artists Releasing $25,000,000 $100,300,000 4,407 -55%
Venom: Let There Be Carnage Sony Pictures / Columbia $15,900,000 $168,600,000 4,013 -50%
The Last Duel 20th Century Studios $8,400,000 $8,400,000 3,065 NEW
The Addams Family 2 United Artists Releasing $7,300,000 $42,200,000 3,607 -28%
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Disney / Marvel Studios $2,900,000 $217,300,000 2,300 -33%
Free Guy 20th Century Studios $720,000 $120,800,000 915 -42%
Lamb A24 $450,000 $1,900,000 ~775 -55%
Dear Evan Hansen Universal Pictures $425,000 $14,600,000 974 -58%
Candyman Universal Pictures $350,000 $60,700,000 1,012 -51%

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: Universal Pictures ("Halloween Kills"); MGM & UAR & EON & Linus Sandgren ("No Time to Die"); Sony Pictures / Columbia ("Venom: Let There Be Carnage"); 20th Century Studios / Disney ("The Last Duel")
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