HEAT VISION

'Halloween' Box Office: How the Sequel Set a Trick-or-Treat Record

The movie scored the best debut of all time for a horror pic opening during the Halloween holiday corridor by appealing to several generations of moviegoers.
'Halloween'   |   Universal Pictures
The movie scored the best debut of all time for a horror pic opening during the Halloween holiday corridor by appealing to several generations of moviegoers.

All Hallows' Eve came early for masters of horror Universal Pictures and Jason Blum's Blumhouse, literally and figuratively.

Over the Oct. 19-21 weekend, Halloween — a direct sequel to the original 1978 film that sees Jamie Lee Curtis reprise her role as the iconic Laurie Strode — slashed up the box office with $77 million by attracting audiences across the generational spectrum. It was the best showing of all time for a horror film opening during the Halloween corridor, not adjusted for inflation. The previous record holder was Blumhouse's Paranormal Activity 3, which launched to $52.6 million in 2011 (the threequel was previously the biggest opening for Blumhouse as well).

Halloween also scored the second-best showing of all time for an R-rated horror pic behind the $123.4 million scared up by Warner Bros.' It in early September 2018, as well as the second-biggest October launch ever behind Sony's superhero sensation Venom, which opened to $80 million earlier this month.

Overseas, Halloween started off with $14.3 million from its first 23 markets, led by Mexico ($4.9 million) and the U.K. ($3.6 million), for a global bow of $91.8 million. The film, made for just $10 million before marketing and co-financed by Miramax, will likely turn a profit by the time Oct. 31 rolls around.

Blum's decision to make a sequel to the 1978 Halloween paid off in spades. He convinced that film's director, John Carpenter, to serve as a creative consultant. In addition to Curtis, Nick Castle reprises his role as the masked and menacing Michael Myers. David Gordon Green directed.

Often, horror pics draw a predominately younger audience.

But like the movie It, Halloween succeeded in playing across the generations. Roughly 40 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25, while 60 percent was 25 and older. Among other recent R-rated pics, nearly 50 percent of The Nun's opening-weekend audience was under the age of 25. And when considering horror movies rated PG-13, roughly 60 percent of the audience turning out for Insidious: Chapter 3 was under the age of 25.

Of those turning out to see Halloween, 8 percent were between the ages of 45 and 54 and 3 percent were over 55, a larger share than for either It or The Nun. The sweetest spot for Halloween was moviegoers between the ages of 25 and 34, or 32 percent, on par with It.

"Our core audience, in essence, was virtually everybody," says Universal domestic distribution president Jim Orr. (The exception is kids, who are restricted when it comes to R-rated fare.)

Generally speaking, an opening in the $30 million to $40 million range is considered a great start for an R-rated horror title. By way of comparison, filmmaker Jordan Peele and Universal's groundbreaking Get Out debuted to $33.4 million in February 2017.

Halloween was buoyed by strong reviews — its current Rotten Tomatoes score is 80 percent — and a B+ CinemaScore, a great grade for a horror title. It, likewise, received a B+, while The Nun earned a C CinemaScore, a standard grade for the genre. Get Out fared even better with an A-.

Horror has made a huge comeback in recent times, generating massive profits. From New Line and Warner Bros., It earned $700.4 million at the worldwide box office against a $35 million budget before marketing. And New Line's The Nun has grossed a stellar $360 million at the worldwide box office after opening to $53.8 million in early September of this year. The Nun, now the top-grossing title in The Conjuring universe, cost $22 million to make before marketing.

"The killer opening weekend performance of Halloween proves the continued power and allure of horror is no fluke and given the fun factor of being collectively scared in a darkened movie theater, this is a genre most perfectly suited to that uniquely communal environment," says box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian of comScore.

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