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The Sweet Box Office Success of ‘Candyman’

Nia DaCosta became the first black woman director with the #1 movie in America.
Abdul Mateen II in Candyman 2021
Universal Pictures
By  · Published on August 29th, 2021

Welcome to our weekly box office report, which we do a little differently. Rather than focusing on the money, FSR senior editor Christopher Campbell is more interested in the estimated attendance — or number of tickets sold. Because the value of money changes over the years, but the value of actual moviegoers remains the same. This week, we look at the opening box office attendance numbers for Candyman and An Egg Rescue.

Moviegoing is on the decline in the US, again, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when there’s a movie that people want to see, and there’s no streaming option, that movie will play well on the big screen. Candyman is the latest example. Nia DaCosta‘s sequel to the 1992 horror classic of the same name grossed $22.4 million over the weekend in its debut. That’s about 2.4 million** tickets. That’s not a lot if you consider the population of the country is nearly 333 million. But with a budget of $25 million, it’s good enough to make the movie a box office success.

It’s also good enough to make DaCosta the first Black woman director to open at number one at the box office. She didn’t have the greatest debut for a Black woman filmmaker. She did have the second-best attendance for her opening weekend. (And with her next gig, the Marvel superhero movie The Marvels, she’s sure to break that record as well.) It’s been a long time coming. Looking at the chart below, you can see the last few years have seen an uptick in Black women directors finding success with bigger movies with bigger releases and bigger box office numbers. Congratulations to DaCosta for finally making it happen.

10 Best Movie Openings for Black Women Filmmakers

RankMovie TitleDirectorOpening Weekend AttendanceBox Office PlacementTotal Domestic Attendance
1A Wrinkle in Time (2018)Ava DuVernay3.6 million#211 million
2Candyman (2021)Nia DaCosta2.4 million#1 TBD
3Little (2019)Tina Gordon Chism1.68 million#24.5 million
4Love & Basketball (2000)Gina Prince-Bythewood1.51 million#25.1 million
5The Secret Life of Bees (2008)Gina Prince-Bythewood1.47 million#35.3 million
6The Photograph (2020)Stella Meghie1.33 million#42.2 million
7Queen & Slim (2019)Melina Matsoukas1.298 million#54.8 million
8Harriet (2019)Kasi Lemmons1.27 million#44.7 million
9My Baby's Daddy (2004)Cheryl Dunye1.26 million#52.8 million
10Respect (2021)Liesl Tommy 0.96 million#3TBD

Candyman Franchise Box Office

First, let’s look at how Candyman‘s box office compares to other movies in its franchise. The original sold around 1.3 million tickets in its fourth-place debut in October 1992 — from 1,251 screens. And went on to a net profit exceeding its budget by a small margin. Three years later, the loosely connected sequel Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh drew an even bigger opening weekend crowd of 1.4 million people via 1,605 screens. The second sequel, 1999’s Candyman: Day of the Dead, was a direct-to-video release and so has no box office information available. The new Candyman topped them all, albeit on 3,569 screens.

Could the resurrected franchise continue with more sequels thanks to the new movie’s success? As with Jordan Peele’s directorial efforts, Candyman, which he produced, delivers its social problem point succinctly in one shot. Other than merely becoming a common horror franchise that just repeats its basic intentions, what would the point be? Other than entertainment, of course, which could be enough. But maybe to keep its significance, and its demand, the Candyman franchise shouldn’t return with another sequel for another thirty years. Who knows what America will look like then?

Candyman Box Office vs. Expectations

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, which is a direct follow-up to the 1992 film, performed better than expected, too. Last week, Box Office Pro predicted a $20 million debut — the equivalent of around 2.2 million tickets. However, they also set a range of potential that equated to attendance being between 1.7 million and 2.8 million people. The reality for Candyman is ahead of the midpoint of that range.  Last month, Box Office Pro’s early forecast put Candyman at only grossing somewhere between $9 million and $14 million, the peak of that range only equating to around 1.5 million tickets.

The Reception

Part of Candyman‘s success could be attributed to its positive critical reception (Certified Fresh at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 72 score on Metacritic). It’s one of the best-reviewed mainstream studio horror releases this year (behind A Quiet Place Part II and tied with The Night House). And while the genre doesn’t always translate critical favor to box office success, Candyman‘s debut is also the third-best for horror this year (behind A Quiet Place Part II and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It). Given how long ago the original Candyman came out, franchise familiarity is less likely a factor in its case than the others’ case.

Speaking of the first movie, the new Candyman had a greater critical reception than that original installment (Certified Fresh at 76% on Rotten Tomatoes, 61 score on Metacritic) and definitely better than Farewell to Flesh (26% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Candyman 3 (9% on Rotten Tomatoes). But while its B grade from audiences via CinemaScore polling and its 75% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes are both better than those of the original (C+ via CinemaScore, 62% on Rotten Tomatoes), its public reception is nothing to be super excited about (the new Conjuring had a B+), but it’s pretty good.

The Rest

A new Spanish-language animated feature called An Egg Rescue nearly cracked the top ten in its debut. The movie posted the best attendance over the weekend for a limited release (47,000). It also managed one of the best per-screen attendance averages (146). In other box office news, Jungle Cruise became the fifth movie of 2021 to break the $100 million mark, Free Guy continued a decent hold and could very well come close to that same achievement in a few weeks, and Sony’s documentary The Lost Leonardo is picking up well as it increases to nationwide showings.

Box Office Attendance for August 27 - August 29, 2021

RankMovie TitleWeekend AttendancePer-Screen AttendanceTotal Domestic AttendanceStudio
1Candyman2.4 million6732.4 millionUniversal Pictures
2Free Guy1.4 million3658.6 million20th Century Studios
3PAW Patrol: The Movie0.7 million2282.6 millionParamount Pictures
4Jungle Cruise0.5 million16210.9 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
5Don't Breathe 20.3 million1162.7 millionScreen Gems
6Respect0.24 million942.2 millionMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
7The Suicide Squad0.22 million915.8 millionWarner Bros.
8The Protege0.18 million690.6 millionLionsgate
9The Night House0.13 million590.6 millionSearchlight Pictures
10Old0.09 million810.4 millionUniversal Pictures

*Initially box office grosses are estimated and then are later updated for actual figures.

** Ticket sales and attendance figures are determined with each year’s average ticket prices. Currently, for 2021, that average is $9.16.

All box office gross figures are sourced from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, and Box Office Pro unless otherwise stated.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.