Warner Bros.' $30 million budgeted and brazenly "B" movie caught $1,432,210 in its 2,402-theater web on Wednesday, debuting at No. 4. It then dipped 18.9% to $1,162,490 on Thursday for a two-day tally of $2,594,700. The muted opening could partially be attributed to people not realizing the picture is out. It was only recently moved up two days from Friday, July 19. Some billboards even still promote the old date.
However, a good portion of the TV spots were devoted to announcing that Eight Legged Freaks would be invading theaters on Wednesday and not Friday, because they "just couldn't wait." The big bold type combined with the announcer's echoed hyper-voice, though, made it seem more like a monster truck rally or a new kids toy was being promoted than a movie.
The early trailers mixed humor and scares well, leading most pundits to think Freaks could become a sleeper hit. As the release date approached, however, the marketing became too self-consciously hokey and ceased tapping into people's fear of spiders.
Freaks expands to 2,530 sites on Friday, but it is unlikely that the picture will mutate into a hit. The current trajectory points to a weekend of around $7 million for less than $10 million in five days.
Originally titled Arac Attack but changed because it sounded too much like America's potential "Iraq Attack," Freaks has bounced around the release schedule quite a bit. Its previous date of August 30 might have been more conducive to success. "B" movies are often able to do a fair amount of business around Labor Day, such as Jeepers Creepers last year.
Warner Bros. jumped to July, though, based on the response to the trailer and the success of similar movies during the month.
On the same Wednesday last year, another creature feature Jurassic Park III devoured $19,024,360 at 3,434 sites, leading to a $50,771,645 weekend. Of course, that picture was an event and a sequel, and not exactly comparable.
Three years ago, Warner Bros. itself found creature feature success on a Wednesday in July. Deep Blue Sea emerged with $3,022,665 at 2,612 theaters on Wednesday, July 28, 1999. As could be the case with Freaks, its opening day was slightly muted compared to its $19,107,643 first weekend, as if not everyone had realized it had struck theaters yet. It had feasted on $73,648,228 by the end of its run.
On the same weekend in 1999, Lake Placid—a similarly tongue-in-cheek creature feature to Freaks but involving a crocodile—bit into $10,974,145 at 2,096 theaters on its opening weekend en route to $31,770,413.
However, Arachnophobia is the movie that Freaks seems to have been designed to mimic the most, and not just because of the same subject matter. The $31 million Disney-distributed thriller featuring more realistic spiders spun into theaters on Wednesday, July 18, 1990—the same frame and day of the week as Freaks. While a daily breakdown is unavailable, it snared $2,407,732 in its first two days, leading to an $8,045,760 weekend at 1,479 sites. It climbed to 2,005 theaters at its widest point on its way to $53,208,180.
Movies are far more frontloaded nowadays, so even if Freaks takes a similar course in its first five days, it will likely end up with maybe half of Arachnophobia's gross.