‘90s Horror Franchise ‘Candyman’ Is Back And Looking To Dethrone ‘Free Guy’
Last weekend showed us that despite rising Covid cases, audiences are willing to come to the movies if there is something they want to see. The newcomers of last week mostly flopped while Free Guy held strong. It was down only 34.8% in its second weekend, making it the best hold of the summer--in a season with sharper than usual drops--and cementing its status as one of the summer’s biggest surprise hits. While many predicted that the Delta variant’s surge would scare off audiences, it is clear that the audience will show up for the right content, and Marvel’s Shang-Chi should give the box office the shot in the arm that it needs next weekend. Until then, this weekend’s sole wide release newcomer, Candyman from Universal, is vying to be the next modest Covid-era success.

Candyman, which is a theatrical exclusive release, is the fourth film in the Candyman franchise and the first since 1999. It acts as both a reboot as well as a direct sequel to the 1992 original, disregarding the two sequels. 1992's Candyman grossed an unremarkable $25.8 million but has become a cult classic among horror fans, while the follow-ups were viewed as disappointments. The second film grossed only $13.9 million and the third film went straight to video.

The Candyman franchise may not be a big enough name to propel a hit on its own, but the new Candyman has a pedigree lacking in many of the summer’s other horror sequels. It is produced and co-written by Jordan Peele, and it is his first film project since Us became a smash, grossing $175 million. Nia DaCosta co-writes and directs, following her critically-acclaimed 2018 indie Little Woods (95% on Rotten Tomatoes) and preceding her upcoming Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels.

Candyman stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who made a splash (literally) in Aquaman as Black Manta, in addition to his roles in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and the HBO series Watchmen. It also stars Teyonah Parris (Chi-Raq, If Beale Street Could Talk, Wandavision) and has Tony Todd reprising his role as Candyman.

Considering the talent is a bigger draw than the franchise, a good comp is M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, which opened to $16.8 million in July. While pre-release page views on IMDb for Candyman are well below those of Old, Candyman’s critical reception is much better (85% Tomatometer vs. 50%). It should take the top spot unless it under-performs and Free Guy has yet another strong hold. No other films are likely to crack $10 million, and we should be neck-and-neck with last weekend in overall box office, which was the lowest grossing weekend since June 18-20.

Recent weekends have also been disappointing for the limited release films, and we don’t expect that to change this weekend. Notable among this weekend’s limited release titles is Together, a British film directed by Stephen Daldry (The Hours, The Reader) which aired directly on BBC Two in June. It is getting a stateside theatrical release via Bleecker Street, and it stars James McAvoy, alongside British comedy star Sharon Horgan, as a couple whose relationship gets tested when Covid-19 hits and lockdowns are instituted. Reviews are mixed (64% Tomatometer). Also opening limited is the German sci-fi film The Colony from Saban.

There hasn’t been much to feel great about in the global box office lately, but F9: The Fast Saga is a reminder that mega-blockbusters are still possible. It has just crossed $700 million worldwide, with $200 million of that coming from China, making it the second highest worldwide grosser of the year after China’s Hi, Mom. China’s blackout on Hollywood films has put a dent into the international box-office totals over the past few months, but it looks like we are finally moving out of that phase.

Free Guy opens in China this weekend, following last week’s release of Pixar’s Luca, the first Hollywood film to release there since June. Free Guy definitely has potential in China, especially when you consider that the effects heavy, video-gamey comp Ready Player One was massive in China with $218.5 million. However, 30% of China’s theaters are shut right now due to Covid restrictions, and there are capacity limits for the open theaters. Regardless of these setbacks, though, it is a relief that the biggest overseas market is back in business with Hollywood.