Halloween Friday Makes Nightcrawler #1
By John Hamann
November 2, 2014
Who was scared the most over this Halloween weekend? Movie studios and box office analysts.
Welcome to the weirdest weekend at the box office since October 31, 2008, when High School Musical 3 earned $1.7 million over its second Friday (off 90% from its opening day) before going on to earn $15.3 million for the weekend. Regular readers of this column understand the "internal weekend multiplier," a calculation of how a movie performs over a weekend. We divide the Friday box office number into the weekend number, and usually end up with a range between 2.6 (horror or extreme fanboy films) and beyond 4.0 for kids films. When it comes to movies for children and families, school impacts movie attendance on Friday and then the rugrats eat up matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Over Halloween weekend in 2008, High School Musical 3 had an internal weekend multiplier of 9.1, meaning that almost no one saw that film on Halloween Friday, and then they came in droves on Saturday and Sunday. This shows how impossible it is to forecast winners and losers without the actual data from the weekend.
This weekend is a little different than in 2008, as there are no non-horror movies aimed directly at teens in their first or second weekend. The scheduling of High School Musical 3 to open the weekend before a Halloween Friday is probably the stupidest scheduling move in box office history, and studios have learned from that mistake. We are left with a bucketload of R-rated films in the marketplace, and as Scott Bowles and Deadline Hollywood called it, some "disposable horror." New films this weekend include Nightcrawler, a creepy-looking thriller with a title made for Halloween, Before I Go To Sleep, another thriller attempt with a title that potentially could have worked on Halloween weekend, and the 10th Anniversary of release of Saw, as Lionsgate re-released it on 2,000+ screens. The disposable horror is Ouija, the Hasbro release that tricked the kids into attending last weekend to the tune of $20 million.
Our number one film by a nose is Nightcrawler, the Jake Gyllenhaal release with fantastic reviews. Considering that this is 94% fresh and the marketing campaign was strong, this is an odd weekend to release what could be an Oscar contender. However, with very little competition, a movie that should have been a platform release is now our #1 film and will take the press prize that goes with it. Nightcrawler got started on Thursday, earning a solid $515,000 from previews. The Thursday number indicated that the marketing had worked, and that Nightcrawler could be in line for a decent opening.
The Friday number came in at only $2.7 million, though that total does come up to $3.2 million when combined with Thursday previews. Normally, I would expect Nightcrawler to earn about 2.8 times its total Friday number, or about $9 million. However, with Halloween falling on the Friday, the Saturday and Sunday are stronger days, and Nightcrawler is estimated to have earned $10.9 million, giving it an 3.4 internal weekend multiplier. Given the Halloween calendar configuration, Open Road Films should be ecstatic about this opening. Tracking was looking for $11 million and potentially a second place finish behind Ouija. For Jake Gyllenhaal, this is a typical start for an actor who makes brave choices (Brokeback Mountain, End of Watch, Prisoners), as his films tend to open in the $9-$14 million range.