‘Halloween Ends’ To Scare Away Box Office Slump
At last, the reinforcements are arriving. After 11 weekends in a row under $100 million and seven in a row under $65 million, the overall box office will finally start returning to non-disastrous levels this weekend with the first tentpole title in months, Halloween Ends. Unless the Universal film has a huge overperformance, we won’t be getting into the nine digits this weekend, but Halloween Ends should be the top opener since Thor: Love and Thunder over three months ago and it will likely lead the biggest total weekend box office since Bullet Train opened in the first weekend of August (that weekend had an overall cume of $92.1 million, a number that is possible but not especially likely this weekend). Next weekend, the combination of the Dwayne Johnson-starring DCEU film Black Adam and the George Clooney and Julia Roberts starring rom-com Ticket to Paradise will be enough to push the box office past the $100 million mark for the first time since July.

Halloween Ends, which opens in 3,800 theaters and has screenings beginning at 5 P.M. Thursday, concludes the David Gordon Green-directed trilogy that began with the 2018 Halloween. That film brought back Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in her epic battle against Michael Myers, and it successfully rebooted the classic horror franchise, becoming its biggest hit to date with $159 million domestic and $255 million worldwide off a slender $10 million budget. Last October’s follow-up Halloween Kills didn’t quite recapture the box office magic, but it was still the long running franchise’s second best grossing film, and grading it on the pandemic curve and accounting for its day-and-date availability on the streaming service Peacock (which Halloween Ends will also be available on from tomorrow), the $92 million domestic and $132 global cumes are still commendable (not to mention very profitable given its $20 million budget).

Halloween (2018) opened to $76.2 million, and Halloween Kills opened to $49.4 million, which is still the best launch for a horror film since the start of the pandemic. Halloween Ends looks to end up closer to Halloween Kills than to the first film of the trilogy, but how well it plays relative to its predecessors could depend on how well it is received. After the critically acclaimed 2018 reboot (79% on Rotten Tomatoes), which scored the best reviews for the series since the 1978 John Carpenter-directed original, Halloween Kills was seen as a disappointment. Only 39% of critics gave it a positive review, and audiences also ranked it lower than the previous outing, with Halloween getting a B+ CinemaScore (quite good for a horror film) and Halloween Kills getting a B-. Few reviews are in yet for the finale, but it could overperform if audiences feel that it sticks its landing. If it tops the last installment, then it may have an opening that surpasses many of the total weekend box office cumes of the past few months.

Beyond Halloween Ends, it will be a quiet weekend, and we possibly won’t see any other film gross above $10 million. The one film that has a chance is Smile, the season’s most impressive hit thus far. The $17 million budgeted horror film has crossed $100 million worldwide in less than two weeks, and it had a second weekend hold for the history books as it dropped only 18.3% domestically and actually grew in holdover territories abroad. If it drops less than roughly 46% from its $18.5 million second weekend, then it can remain in the double digits, but it may not retain such a big audience now that another major horror film is on the market. Either way, it is grinning all the way to the bank.

Most significant in the specialty box office is Focus Features’ Oscar contender Tár, which opened in four theaters last weekend and expands to 30 theaters in 10 markets this weekend. The film’s $40k per theater average last weekend was the year’s second best for a limited release. The Todd Field film starring Cate Blanchett has received sensational reviews, and it will continue to expand in the upcoming weeks. If the numbers can hold up as it expands, that would be a great sign for the specialty market, which has been in a deep slump since the start of the pandemic. Everything Everywhere All at Once, the only arthouse blockbuster since the pandemic, went from its $501k ten theater opening ($50k average) to a $70 million cume, but other films with strong limited openings have fizzled out sooner. A recent example is Bodies Bodies Bodies which had a $38k average on six screens and went on to gross $11.4 million, hardly a runaway hit but still one of the best specialty titles of recent years. Tár skews older than Everything and Bodies, and if the film can pull in that audience, then it would be a positive sign for the specialty box office as we head into the awards season.

Another film of note opening in limited release this weekend is United Artists’ Chinonye Chukwu-directed Till, which tells the true story of Mamie Till seeking justice after the lynching of her son Emmett Till. Also opening is A24’sStars at Noon, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes. It is the latest from director Claire Denis and it stars Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn.