Forecast: For the first time since 2008, Halloween falls on a Friday this year. As a result, Hollywood has programmed a light slate this weekend—the big six studios are entirely avoiding the date, while Lionsgate is re-releasing the original Saw.
Therefore, Open Road Films will likely win the weekend with Nightcrawler, which seems poised to wind up ahead of holdovers like Ouija, John Wick and Fury.
Why is Hollywood so scared of Halloween on a Friday? Quite simply, the date is full of the type of distractions (trick-or-treating, parties, etc.) that keep moviegoers away from theaters. The last two times Halloween fell on a Friday, the date only accounted for around 20 percent of the weekend box office; in comparison, a typical Friday delivers 30 to 35 percent.
Based on this, it's fair to assume a Friday Halloween can shave anywhere from 10 to 20 percent off the full weekend. By no means is that catastrophic: a title expected to open at $20 million would likely make $16 to $18 million instead. But it is enough to think twice about programming against the holiday, which is what the studios seem to have done here.
With a dearth of new content, Open Road Films is betting that Nightcrawler can stand out at 2,766 theaters. The thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a creepy cameraman who attempts to rise through the ranks of nightly news at whatever cost.
On the surface, Nightcrawler doesn't seem particularly commercial. The movie appears to have a satirical angle to it, which tends to fall flat with general moviegoers. Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal's psychotic character is interesting in short bursts, but is also sure to be a turn-off for many viewers. Add in a dark visual palette and a vague story, and the movie is starting on shaky ground.
Open Road has done a nice job selling it, anyway. Commercials have been running heavily on male-leaning programming like ESPN and sporting events, which has gone a long way toward raising awareness. These advertisements have been light on satire, and instead have played up the movie's thrills: most of them feature Gyllenhaal's bright red sports car speeding through the streets of Los Angeles, along with the claim that the movie is "The Most Original Thriller of our Time."
While that line oddly isn't attributed to a critic, Nightcrawler is receiving high marks from them as well: as of Friday afternoon, it was sitting at an impressive 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
The best comparable title for Nightcrawler is 2011's Drive, which is also a well-reviewed Los Angeles-based thriller with some arthouse flair. Drive opened to $11.3 million on its way to $35.1 million, which seems like a reasonable expectation for Nightcrawler as well.
However, Fandango is reporting that Nightcrawler is out-selling Gyllenhaal's last movie, Prisoners, which opened to $20.8 million last September. While Halloween will prevent Nightcrawler from matching that number, it now seems like a $15 million debut is within reach.
Continued with a look at 'Saw 10th Anniversary' and 'Before I Go to Sleep,' along with official predictions >>
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• Last Weekend's Report: Decent Debuts from 'Ouija,' 'Wick' This Weekend
• Last Weekend's Forecast: 'Ouija' Set to Spook 'John Wick' This Weekend