October 2018 Box Office Recap

By Steven Slater

November 13, 2018


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The year of 2018 has been pretty spectacular in terms of record-breaking months at the movie theater box office, among all the other achievements. October continues that streak, being the biggest October of all time, right on the heels of the second largest September, and second biggest summer. This practically ensures that 2018 will be the biggest year ever for box office, even without the annual Star Wars fest we have become accustomed to in the final stretch. What is most surprising about this October, however, is how well it did with so few major releases. About 80% of grosses this past month were from new or platforming releases, even with only five openers above $10 million. Yet during the final weekend, two of the top ten were films that had opened in September. During that same final weekend, Venom and A Star is Born, which had started the month off with a bang, were still the number 2 and 3 films. And wouldn’t you know it, the number one movie on Halloween was...Halloween.

Monthly box office is not the neatest collection of statistics. Whereas weekend box office and annual box office are stable quantities, monthly box office has some quirks. Big films can open at the end of the month, and only be around for a few days, appearing seemingly small on a monthly list. On the flip side, small independent films can hang around, with small weekend drops that add up to a modestly successful number. This month, however, turned out pretty spot on, as the top three films on this list should wind up as the true top three openers in October when their final box office is tallied up. You know what, let’s just get to the list.

1) Venom

Opening Weekend: $80.3 M
Monthly Box Office: $190 M

The newly crowned champion for biggest opener in October is, you guessed it, a Marvel property. Four months out of the year have Marvel properties as the number one opener, three of which occurred in 2018. Decidedly not a part of the grander MCU, this stand-alone anti-hero offering had fairly mediocre reviews, yet the Midas touch meant it still opened huge. The intitial weekend drop was large, but the film has recovered somewhat with the limited new films in multiplexes. A final total close to $220 million seems plausible, for a decent multiplier around 2.75. Given some of the warning signs leading up to Venom’s release, it overcame them and then some. It remains to be seen, though, if Sony can continue being a good steward of the Spider-man universe of characters. Venom will probably become the third highest-grossing film of any in October, behind Gravity and The Martian (do I sense a theme there?). At least it beat Looks Who’s Talking.

2) A Star is Born

Opening Weekend: $42.9 M
Monthly Box Office: $153.1 M

During the first weekend of the month Venom certainly did not suck all the wind out the box office, as the number two film was an even bigger story. Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut smashed expectations and immediately sparked speculations about Oscar nominations given the lofty numbers it posted (now if it had taken place in outer space, man would it have been huge). A remake of a remake, Star is averaging under 30% for weekend drops, and with an opening that already made its budget back this star vehicle is doing amazing business. Bradley Cooper’s status has shot even higher, and Lady Gaga has her first true breakout role after many false starts and cameos. It probably will not be able to catch Venom, but $200 million is a nice stretch goal. I doubt anyone would have pegged this film grossing half that much before the buzz began building.

3) Halloween

Opening Weekend: $76.2 M
Monthly Box Office: $137.9 M

Another October weekend, another breakout hit. What would have been the biggest opener for all Octobers has to settle for second because of Tom Hardy’s mental breakdown. In terms of pure profit, which might be what really matters in the end, nobody puts Michael Myers in a corner. Or Jason Blum, for that matter, the über-producer who has his own Midas touch. Seriously, if you look at the films he has produced in 2018, those six films had a collective budget of approximately $61.5 million (Hollywood math being what it is and all). Their domestic total is $376 and counting, for a profit of over $300 million, which might be as much profit as entire studios have made (or more!). Halloween is by far the biggest success, as it has a minuscule budget of $10 million, and will wind up close to $180 million on the domestic front. Given what John Carpenter’s original film accomplished, however, this is simply following in the footsteps of greatness; it had a $325,000 budget and earned almost $50 million.

4) Smallfoot

Monthly Box Office: $50.4 M
Running total: $73.4 M

This is one of those films that opens at the end of the previous month, but runs well throughout the following, earning a relatively high spot. Smallfoot had the animated film segment to itself for October, and utilized this advantage very well, with weekend drops progressively getting smaller after opening to $23 million. Ultimately this one will wind up just under a 4.0 multiplier, which probably still won’t put this Warner Animation Group title in the black. Next up for WAG is The LEGO Movie 2, and seeing as their LEGO films are the only ones to break $100 million, hopes are probably high for that. WAG has a good track record for keeping budgets low, though, so hopefully they will continue with original properties.

5) Night School

Monthly Box Office: $45 M
Running total: $72.2 M

Believe it or not, Night School’s $72.2 million makes it the highest grossing comedy of 2018, which makes me wonder about the state of certain genres. I doubt westerns are making a comeback any time soon, but at least with movies like this and Crazy Rich Asians the comedy and romance genres are doing okay. Night School is in the same boat as Smallfoot, being the one true comedy in multiplexes for the month and taking advantage of that, albeit with higher weekend drops. This will wind up right in Kevin Hart’s wheelhouse, as his recent movies have a floor around $60 million and a ceiling about twice that.


6) Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

Opening Weekend: $15.8 M
Monthly Box Office: $39.8 M

The other movie with Halloween in the title...somewhere...this one did not do nearly as well, feeling too much like a tired, unwanted sequel. This one opened to about 60% of the original title, and will finish with about the same percentage of the first film’s domestic gross. While that may still put it above the budget, I doubt we will see any more Goosebumps sequels, at least not in theaters. Kudos for this title for at least keeping the franchise alive, given the Goosebumps books probably hit their peak twenty-odd years ago.

7) First Man

Opening Weekend: $16 M
Monthly Box Office: $39.4 M

If one title had to take the trophy for biggest bomb of October, I think First Man would be it. Not that its opening is horrific, but given the pedigree of the material, with Apollo 13’s Universal Studios behind it, this has to be seen as a limp effort. Ultimately, it was probably a mix of the bad buzz right before opening that politicized the film, as well as the fact that unlike Apollo 13 and other space-faring movies (that do really well in October) this was fundamentally a character study. Damien Chazelle has his wings clipped a bit after phenomenal successes, but I have a feeling he will bounce back quickly. Once more people see the film on home video and streaming, perhaps its true quality will come through. For now, a few technical Oscar nominations will probably be the most it can earn, now that its budget is out of reach.

8) The House with a Clock in its Walls

Monthly Box Office: $21.9 M
Running total: $66.8 M

Jack Black took Goosebumps’ money and ran, with his haunted house film getting to about $10 million under the original Goosebumps domestic gross. Clearly one month ain’t big enough for two of these types of films, what with Hocus Pocus marathons on television and all. This title had a budget higher than Goosebumps 2 (but close to the original), which means Jack Black is an actor actually worth a dollar amount, never mind Cate Blanchett. I am very curious what the back story is on how Eli Roth became attached to this project, almost like someone dared him to make a children’s film.

9) The Hate U Give

Opening Weekend: $7.6 M
Monthly Box Office: $19.7 M

A fairly unique little platformer began its journey this month, as The Hate U Give let word of mouth propel it do modest success. Unfortunately, it appears it has already attained its peak, as weekend returns have begun to drop. After going wide with $7.6 million, it dropped 33% and 34% the following weekends, while also shedding theaters. That seems lower than what a title like this could have earned, given how topical it is. A final total around $30 million and a longer shelf life on video seems likely now.

10) Bad Times at the El Royale

Opening Weekend: $7.1 M
Monthly Box Office: $17.1 M

I loved Cabin in the Woods, and the movies Drew Goddard have written have mostly been great. Obviously this film appears to be a total passion project, perhaps with Goddard looking back at movies that influenced him a lot in the 1990’s. With a good cast, and the chance to chew some scenery, this one could have broken out with more buzz. Ultimately, it becomes a cult film, and only time will tell if it is remembered in the deep recesses of movie lovers memories. As it is, not everyone gets to make their passion projects, so he has that going for him. Baby Driver the El Royale is not. This one is going to finish with just over half its budget.

Just outside the top ten we have A Simple Favor, Hunter Killer, The Nun, The Old Man and the Gun, and Crazy Rich Asians, which squeezed out a few million for its third month. Add Mid90s to the list to round out the top ten openers in October, which also had quite a few platforming releases such as The Hate U Give and The Old Man and the Gun, as well as Colette, The Sisters Brothers, Gosnell and Free Solo. Even with only a few big openers in October, there was plenty of content to watch, and the openers tended to do very well including two record breaking debuts. All told it amounted to a record amount, as the top twenty films earned about $780 million. November is already off to a surprisingly good start, as Bohemian Rhapsody shrugs off cool critical response to become the champion. Will the full month follow suit?



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