Autumn Box Office Blues: ‘Freddy’s At $19M+ Leads ‘Dune’-Less Frame As Strike Continues – Sunday Update

Sunday AM Writethru: The ramifications of the actors strike at the weekend box office continues to be felt, as ticket sales this weekend plummeted to an estimated $64.6M (-49% from last weekend), which is currently the fourth-lowest of 2023 to date. Remember, the Legendary/Warner Bros’ Zendaya-Timothee Chalamet-Austin Butler-Florence Pugh sequel Dune: Part Two was originally set to play this weekend, and with its departure, there’s at least $50M — if not substantially more — missing from the box office.

Legendary opted to move that sequel, based on the Frank Herbert novel, to March 2024, so that the actors could properly promote the sci-fi pic; the first pic’s ticket sales siphoned from a day-and-date theatrical play on streaming service Max.

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Dune: Part Two
‘Dune: Part Two’

After this weekend, the next three lowest frames at the box office for 2023 to date (two of ’em this past autumn) were Sept 15-17 which did $62M, Super Bowl weekend (Feb. 10-12) with $52.6M, and rock-bottom Sept. 22-24, which saw $51.8M.

Speaking of day-and-date, the good news with Universal-Peacock’s Five Nights at Freddy‘s is that it cracked past $100M on Friday, becoming one of a few titles with such a dynamic distribution model to do so (alongside Black Widow, Dune, Godzilla vs. Kong and Jungle Cruise). The bad news is that the movie’s availability in the home to Peacock paid subs, plus the massive YA leaning nature of the IP, saw the videogame movie drop like a rock at -76% in weekend 2. However, compared to what we saw yesterday on the Emma Tammi-directed movie (a second weekend of $17.8M), Freddy‘s is coming in higher at $19.4M with a running total EOD of $113.6M.

Can you imagine if we didn’t have the Taylor Swift: Eras Concert Film on the schedule? Her faithful continue to make the movie No. 2 (for the second weekend in a row), the movie also coming in ahead of its weekend 4 prospect from yesterday ($11.9M) with a 3-day of $13.7M and running total of $166.1M. There was some confusion when tickets first went on sale that the concert pic would only play for four weekends. That is not the case and the movie will continue to hold screens. Updated outlook domestic for the highest grossing concert movie ever is now $180M.

While some in distribution think it’s hard to quantify the impact of the actors strike (today Sunday in its 115th day) at the box office, it’s pretty clear that thespians are needed to promote and deliver large halos around tentpoles so that the message is transmitted around the globe that there’s a must-see event.

In certain cases, particularly with horror, and movies like Nun II and Five Nights at Freddy‘s, IP can get a studio by. But brand alone doesn’t sell. You need stars. It can be argued that part of the expected slowdown next weekend with the opening of Disney/Marvel Studios’ The Marvels stems from the studio’s inability to promote the pic properly at Comic-Cons. Even if the strike settles this weekend, it’s not clear whether the pic’s cast will be able to attend the movie’s “fan event” in Las Vegas this coming week. It would not be shocking if we see The Marvels charting one of the lowest openings for a Marvel Studios movie next weekend in November with less than $70M –lower than 2021’s The Eternals ($71.2M)— the movie not only a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel, but also a crossover from the Disney+ series, Ms. Marvel (and WandaVision). Presales for The Marvels are pacing behind that of Black Adam and The Flash (those respective openings at $67M and $55M).

Some specialty affair and wide releases from smaller distributors have vied to take advantage of the marketplace this weekend given the lack of competition from new major studio wide releases.

Priscilla Presley
‘Priscilla’ starring Jacob Elordi and Callee Spaeney

A24’s critically acclaimed film festival darling Priscilla from Sofia Coppola is seeing around $5M in 4th place from its expansion from four NYC and LA theaters last weekend to 1,350 theaters. That’s better than the expanded weekend on Coppola’s The Beguiled from Focus Features back in July 2017 ($3.2M at 674 theaters), close-to-topping the entire cume of the filmmaker’s Bling Ring ($5.8M), and almost near the opening weekend (at 859 theaters) of her Marie Antoinette ($5.3M) back in 2006.

No CinemaScore, but Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak audiences gave the Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny movie a 71% positive and 50% recommend. Women attended at 67%, with 61% between 18-34 and the largest demo being the Euphoria Elordi 18-24 fans at 38%. Overall 75% were under 35. Diversity demos were 48% Caucasian, 33% Latino and Hispanic, 8% Black, and 12% Asian/other. Priscilla played best on the coasts, but was the strongest in the West.  Through Saturday, the Angelika in NY became the pic’s highest grossing theater in the nation with close to $23K. Friday was $1.9M, $450K of that coming from Thursday night previews.

Radical starring Eugenio Derbez

Pantelion and Participant have the robust Eugenio Derbez Spanish-language pic Radical, which is posting a very strong theater average of $6,5K from 419 theaters, or $2.7M for the weekend in 5th place. The weepy pic, produced by Derbez’s production 3Pas Studios, follows an aspiring teacher who delivers hope to a down-on-its-luck Mexican border town. The movie is benefitting from word of mouth in Latino and Hispanic communities after its Mexico release on Oct. 20, the movie having grossed $5M there — the biggest local language film since the pandemic. Strong numbers for Radical in Los Angeles, El Paso, Dallas and Houston. Exhibitor Relations firm PaperAirplane handled in-theater marketing on this. Derbez has the highest grossing Spanish-language at the domestic box office, Instructions Not Included, from 2013, and also released by Pantelion, which grossed $44.4M. The pic received an A+ CinemaScore.

“We are overjoyed by the tremendous excitement that audiences and families around the country are showing for Radical” said David Linde, CEO of Participant. “Christopher and Eugenio have crafted a film that authentically taps the inspiration, empathy and compassion in all of us, and we are really grateful to be part of this lovely film.”

“Once again 3Pas has made a film that the core Hispanic audiences adore with strong crossover appeal” said Paul Presburger, Co-CEO of Miercoles Entertainment. “I echo David’s sentiments on our pride of being involved with this inspiring film.”

“Our distribution partners have done a tremendous job of building excitement and strong word of mouth. We are seeing incredible momentum at the box office both in the US and Mexico and we are looking forward to expanding the film to more audiences,” added Ben Odell, producer of Radical and co-founder of 3Pas Studios.

'What Happens Later' review
Meg Ryan and David Duchovny in ‘What Happens Later’

Bleecker Street has the Meg Ryan directed return to rom-com, and first feature starring role in eight years, What Happens Later at 1,492 locations, which did $602K on Friday, for what’s shaping up to be a $1.56M opening weekend in 9th place. A theatrical release will help prop this holiday title, which also stars David Duchovny, on PVOD menus come December, which is where all the money lives on these short theatrical window plays. Audiences, like critics (51% on Rotten Tomatoes) aren’t excited about this return to form for Ryan at 43% positive on PostTrak, 25% recommend. Those who bought tickets were women at 70% with the largest demo being those over 55 at 28%. Diversity demos were 57% Caucasian, 13% Hispanic and Latino, 8% Black, and 23% Asian/other. What Happens Later played in the South, Midwest & West. The AMC Lincoln Square in NYC is the pic’s best venue in the nation, with just over $2K.

Daisy Ridley and Ben Mendelsohn in The Marsh King's Daughter movie
Daisy Ridley in ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter’

Outside the top ten, Roadside Attractions has the STX Daisy Ridley-Ben Mendelsohn starring, Neil Burger-directed The Marsh King’s Daughter, with $849K for the weekend after a $310K Friday at 1,055 theaters. With a $804 theater average off Rotten Tomatoes reviews that are at 39% — nobody’s going.

Top 10 movies as of Sunday AM:

1.) Five Nights at Freddy’s (Uni) 3,789 (+114) theaters, Fri $5.4M (-86%) Sat $8.6M Sun $5.3M 3-day $19.4M (-76%), Total $113.6M/Wk 2

2.) Taylor Swift: Eras Tour (AMC) 3,604 (-169) theaters, Fri $3.6M (-23%) Sat $5.7M Sun $4.2M 3-day $13.5M (-12%)/Total $166M/ Wk 4

3.) Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple/Par) 3,786 (+154) theaters Fri $1.94M (-27%) Sat $3M Sun $2M 3-day $7M (-25%)/Total $52.3M/Wk 3

4.) Priscilla (A24) 1,344 (+1340) theaters, Fri $1.9M (+2788%) 3-day $5.08M (+3612%), Total $5.3M/Wk 2

5.) Radical (Pant) 419 theaters, Fri $882K Sat $907,5K Sun $940K 3-day, $2.73M/Wk 1

6.) Exorcist: The Believer (Uni) 2,429 (-288) theaters Fri $610K Sat $960K Sun $580K 3-day $2.15M (-34%) Total $63.1M/Wk 5

7.) Paw Patrol 2 (Par) 2,404 (-342) theaters, Fri $420K Sat $950K Sun $605K 3-day $1.97M (-15%) Total $62M/Wk 5

8.) After Death (Angel) 2,730 (+85) theaters, Fri $580K Sat $780K Sun $600K 3-day $1.96M (-61%), Total $8.96M/Wk 2

9.) What Happens Later (BST) 1,492 theaters Fri $602K Sat $565K Sun $396K 3-day $1.56M /Wk 1

10.) Freelance (Relativity) 2,057 theaters, Fri $350K,Sat $544K Sun $355K 3-day $1.24M (-40%)/Total $4.2M Wk 2


The Marsh King’s Daughter (Road) 1,055 theaters Fri $314K Sat $324K Sun $211K 3-day $849K/Wk 1

The Holdovers (Foc) 64 (+58) theaters Fri $200K Sat $230K Sun $170K/3-day $600K (+184%), Total $878K/Wk 2

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