Universal and Blumhouse’s “Halloween Kills” topped the weekend box office with a $50.4 million debut, giving theater owners hope that the exhibition industry is experiencing a fall resurgence. That’s a bloody good showing for “Halloween Kills” considering that the film is being release simultaneously in theaters and on-demand via Peacock, NBCUniversal’s in-house Netflix challenger. That kind of distribution pattern has depressed ticket sales in recent months, with films like Warner Bros.’ “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “The Suicide Squad” failing to resonate with moviegoers when they were made available at the same time on HBO Max. “Halloween Kills” scored the highest grossing opening weekend for a streaming day-and-date premiere, besting “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which came out of the gate with $31.6 million despite bowing on HBO Max at the same time it debuted in cinemas.
“This genre and this particular franchise lends itself to the in-theater experience,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution. “People want to be scared together. Our core audience was eager and enthusiastic.”
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An exclusive theatrical release wasn’t enough to save “The Last Duel,” a lavish historical epic starring Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and — venturing very far afield from the Cambridge/Southie milieu that made them stars in “Good Will Hunting” — Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The drama, which is set in 14th century France, bombed, grossing a pallid $4.8 million. That’s a disastrous result given that the film cost north of $100 million to make, as well as a sign that older audiences remain skittish about returning to theaters when COVID and its variants are still circulating. More than half of the audience for “The Last Duel” was comprised of ticket buyers over the age of 35. In contrast, just 27% of the audience for “Halloween Kills” hailed from that demographic. The bulk of the horror film’s opening weekend crowds were younger men, who have shown the greatest willingness to see movies on the big screen in the pandemic era.
“The Last Duel” was inherited by Walt Disney after it bought 20th Century Fox Studios in 2019. Ridley Scott, who also oversaw this fall’s “House of Gucci,” directed the movie. Critics were kind, but that couldn’t save the picture, which limped to a fifth-place finish.
Elsewhere, MGM, United Artists Releasing and Eon Productions’ “No Time to Die” earned $24.3 million in its second weekend of release, good enough for a second-place finish. That’s a drop of 56%, which is roughly in line with how other James Bond films like “Spectre” and “Skyfall” have performed in their sophomore frame. It brings the film’s domestic haul to $99.5 million, a respectable result during a pandemic. However, the problem for the 007 sequel is that it was greenlit in pre-COVID times and carries a massive $250 million price tag along with more than $100 million in promotional spending. Because of those hefty costs, “No Time to Die” will have trouble turning a profit during its theatrical run. Overseas, the film is resonating with audiences. “No Time to Die” brought in $54 million, which pushes its global gross to $447.5 million. It will soon overtake “Godzilla vs. Kong” to be the second highest-grossing Hollywood release of 2021, behind “F9’s” $716.6 million bounty.
“Venom: Let There Be Carnage” slides in at third place, capturing $16.5 million in its web. That brings its domestic haul to $169.1 million, an impressive figure that guarantees audiences haven’t seen the last of this symbiote. UAR and MGM’s “The Addams Family 2″ nabbed fourth place with $7.2 million, pushing its domestic gross to $42.3 million.
“Halloween Kills” revives the un-killable Michael Myers (last seen incinerating in a house) and brings back franchise star Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, who started out the series as a babysitter and has matured into an avenging grandma. David Gordon Green, who orchestrated the carnage in the 2018 reboot, returns as director. They’ll all be back for more bloodletting with 2022 “Halloween Ends.” Given that this is a film series that dates back to 1978, that title is likely a misnomer.
After a brutal summer, the domestic box office is starting to hum louder. Films like “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “No Time to Die” and now “Halloween Kills” are providing compelling content that is inspiring people to hit up multiplexes. Now, it falls to upcoming films like “Dune,” “The Matrix Resurrections” and “West Side Story” to keep the momentum going and build on what James Bond, Michael Myers and Spider-Man’s be-fanged antagonist have accomplished.
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