It hardly mattered that “Five Nights at Freddy’s” was released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming this weekend. Fans flocked to movie theaters across the country to see the scary video game adaptation on the big screen, which made $78 million to top the North American box office, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Universal Pictures bet on a day-and-date release on the weekend before Halloween, sending it to 3,675 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, while also making it available for Peacock subscribers, the subscription streaming service owned by NBCUniversal. The movie also opened in 64 markets internationally, where it’s expected to gross $52.6 million, giving the film a $130.6 million global launch – the biggest of any horror released this year.
“It was an extraordinary debut,” said Jim Orr, the president of domestic distribution for Universal, who praised Blumhouse, the filmmakers and the studio's marketing department for the targeted campaign.
“Our marketing department continues to be one of the great superpowers we have at Universal," he said.
Blumhouse, the company behind “Paranormal Activity,” “Get Out” and recent horror hits like “M3GAN” and “The Black Phone,” produced “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” which was directed by Emma Tammi and stars Josh Hutcherson, Mary Stuart Masterson and Matthew Lillard. The popular video game series, in which a security guard has to fend off murderous animatronic characters at a run down family pizza restaurant, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, was created by Scott Cawthon and first released in 2014.
While the game’s fanbase was strong, and passionate, the movie took many years to make. Producer Jason Blum said in an interview with IGN earlier this year that he was made fun of for pursuing an adaptation.
“Everyone said we could never get the movie done, including, by the way, internally in my company,” Blum said. They made the film with a reported $20 million production budget.
And it paid off: “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is his company’s biggest opening of all time, surpassing “Halloween’s” domestic and global debut. It's also Blumhouse's 19th No. 1 debut, which Orr noted is an “amazing accomplishment.”
The opening weekend audience was predominately male (58%) and overwhelmingly young, with an estimated 80% under the age of 25 and 38% between the ages of 13 and 17.
While the numbers aren't surprising for anyone who knows the game's audience, it is still notable for a generation not known for making theatrical moviegoing a priority.
“It's great to get that kind of audience in theaters,” Orr said.
Audiences gave the film an A- CinemaScore, which could be promising for future weekends too.
“It’s a very young demographic,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “It won’t be lost on any of the other studios or video game manufacturers. This door has been kicked wide open.”
It’s also notable that so many chose theaters even though it was also available to watch at home.
“In some cases streaming can be additive and complimentary to theatrical," Dergarabedian said. “Clearly audiences wanted that communal experience.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” did not score well with critics, however. It currently has a dismal 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. AP’s Mark Kennedy wrote that it “has to go down as one of the poorest films in any genre this year.” But like many other horror movies, it appears to be critic-proof.
In second place, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is expected to cross $200 million in global grosses by the end of Sunday, having added $14.7 million domestically and $6.7 million internationally this weekend. The concert film, distributed by AMC Theatres, is in its third weekend in theaters where it is only playing from Thursday through Sunday, though there will be “special Halloween showtimes” on Tuesday at a discounted price of $13.13.
Third place went to Martin Scorsese's “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which added $9 million in its second weekend, bringing its total domestic earnings to $40.7 million, according to Paramount. With an additional $14.1 million from international showings, the film's global total now stands at over $88 million.
Angel Studios' “After Death,” a Christian documentary film about people who have had near death experiences, opened in fourth place to $5.1 million from 2,645 locations.
And “The Exorcist: Believer” rounded out the top five with $3.1 million in its fourth weekend, bringing its domestic earnings to just shy of $60 million.
Several of the fall’s high-profile films also launched in very limited release this weekend, including Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers” and Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla.” Both opened exclusively in New York and Los Angeles and will expand in the coming weeks.
Focus Features’ “The Holdovers,” starring Paul Giamatti as a curmudgeonly ancient history teacher at a New England prep school, debuted in six theaters where it earned an estimated $200,000.
Coppola’s “Priscilla,” about Priscilla Presley’s life with Elvis, also opened on four screens in New York and Los Angeles, where it averaged $33,035 per screen. With a cumulative gross of $132,139, the A24 release starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi expands nationwide next weekend.
“It was an eclectic and exciting weekend for moviegoers,” Dergarabedian said. “If you couldn’t find a film to your liking, you’re not looking hard enough.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” $78 million.
2. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” $14.7 million.
3. “Killers of the Flower Moon,” $9 million.
4. “After Death,” $5.1 million.
5. “The Exorcist: Believer,” $3.1 million.
6. “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie,” $2.2 million.
7. “Freelance,” $2.1 million.
8. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (re-release), $2 million.
9. “Saw X,” $1.7 million.
10. “The Creator,” $1 million.