The last two weekends have been notable for the top-of-the-chart debuts of two wide releases from Focus Features, the first time that’s occurred in studio history. Come Play and Let Him Go have proven to be the latest anchors in a depressed theatrical market, and next up is parent studio Universal’s stab at drawing the young adult audience with Blumhouse’s Freaky.
When last we wrote in-depth about the body-switch, thriller-comedy, expectations were trending on the bullish side — at least in mid-pandemic terms, when no film other than Tenet has opened higher than $7 million at the weekend box office in North America. The one that has met that threshold was 20th Century Studios’ The New Mutants back at the very beginning of exhibition’s restart in late August. Unlike that film, however, Freaky won’t have the ticket price boost of IMAX, though it does boast playtime in other premium formats.
Since Mutants, we’ve mostly seen a string of indie studio releases, adult-leaning dramas, and various re-releases of archival films headline the weekly “openers” in cinemas. Somewhat surprisingly, the demographics expected to return to moviegoing the soonest — teens, 20-somethings, and early-30-somethings — haven’t been targeted.
Freaky hopes to change that. The Blumhouse connection is a strong draw for audiences in those brackets, as previously discussed in our Long Range report, and a Friday the 13th release “tie-in” has been advantageous for similar films in past years.
The question is whether or not any of that historical precedence will matter this weekend, particularly as the pandemic continues to hit new records of reported cases on a daily basis. We’re a long way from the perceived dip between virus waves just weeks and months ago, and the prolonged absence of multiple high-profile tentpoles — or something comparable — has sent an incredibly mixed signal to audiences of any background or age.
What we do know is this: Freaky has continued to trend well across social media with Universal marketing the film more heavily than any since Warner Bros. pushed Tenet a few months ago. The advertising footprint of this Blumhouse title is the most significant in some time, having activated major digital campaigns across TikTok and several online panels like New York Comic Con.
Across television, ads have notably aired during top-performing shows and sporting events like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Walking Dead franchise, the BET Hip-Hop Awards, and the World Series, as well as a strong tie-in with Freeform’s “31 Nights of Halloween” movie marathon throughout October.
Not to be forgotten, of course, are the trailer views. The film has added another 6 million since our last report, climbing to 35.6 million in total from Universal’s official YouTube page — nearly double those of The Invisible Man, which opened in February earlier this year.
Will all of this translate to a strong debut showcasing where and how exhibition can still succeed when given appealing product to diverse audiences until the market returns to some sense of normalcy? It’s never been more difficult to tell, but efforts to make it so have at least improved upon what’s been done for most other films in recent months.
Re-Issues & Counter-Programmers
As mentioned, weekly trends include the efforts of smaller distributors to throw some help cinemas’ way with counter-programming titles. This week, that includes Sony Classics opening The Climb in an unconfirmed number of theaters, Come Away from Relativity Media in 475 theaters, and NEON’s Ammonite at 280 venues. The latter award season candidate, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, will then go to PVOD starting December 4.
Meanwhile, Disney gets in on the re-issue game once again with Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy at an estimated 1,560 locations. This is the first of the Marvel Cinematic Universe titles to be re-released at traditional theaters in an official wide release and reporting capacity since the restart. The studio will also keep last week’s re-issue of Toy Story at an estimated 1,360 locations this weekend.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, November 15||% Change from Last Wknd|
|Let Him Go||Focus Features||$2,600,000||$7,650,000||-35%|
|The War with Grandpa||101 Studios||$1,200,000||$15,000,000||-20%|
|Come Play||Focus Features||$1,100,000||$7,300,000||-39%|
|Honest Thief||Open Road Films||$850,000||$12,400,000||-25%|
|Tenet||Warner Bros. Studios||$750,000||$56,200,000||-17%|
|Guardians of the Galaxy (2020 Re-Issue)||Disney / Marvel Studios||$300,000||$300,000||NEW|
|Toy Story (2020 Re-Issue)||Disney / Pixar||$250,000||$875,000||-50%|
|The Empty Man||Disney / 20th Century Studios||$180,000||$3,050,000||-39%|
All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of weekend estimates from studios or alternative sources.
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