Features and Columns · Movies

‘Halloween’ is a Huge Hit

The sequel had the best opening for a slasher movie ever while also breaking another October box office record.
Halloween Curtis And Myers
Universal Pictures
By  · Published on October 22nd, 2018

We got another October surprise at the box office over the weekend. While the new Halloween couldn’t quite match Venom‘s record-breaking debut for the month, a title earned just two weeks ago, the horror sequel did come in at number one and did achieve another monumental record. Halloween had the best opening day attendance in October ever. That would be 3.75 million people, which includes Thursday night’s near-million tickets sold. Venom previously had that record, too, with 3.68 million people attending its opening day earlier this month.

That means Halloween was pretty heavily frontloaded, but also Universal could be playing it cool with its estimate and lowballing the weekend total. The movie reportedly sold about 8.6 million tickets, which is already a lot better than Box Office Pro’s initial forecast back in August that the sequel would draw in just 6.8 million horror fans and other curious nostalgia seekers. Of course, last week Box Office Pro and others overshot the expectation with the call that Halloween would gross $80 million, basically tying with Venom‘s attendance record of 9.1 million people.

Halloween also broke the opening-weekend record for the slasher subgenre, beating Scream 2‘s figure that was on top for more than 20 years. And of course, this is a new milestone for the Halloween franchise alone, more than doubling the previous best debut attendance of Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake and the slightly lower number for the original-series sequel Halloween: H20, which was the last to bring back the long-absent Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode (she returned in Halloween: Resurrection, which didn’t perform as well).

For the entire horror genre, Halloween‘s debut is just above Interview with the Vampire‘s opening-weekend attendance but is a long way’s away from last fall’s Stephen King adaptation IT, which sold 13.8 million tickets in its first few days. Other movies that count as horror with better first-weekend attendances include Hannibal (10.2 million), making Halloween the third-best R-rated title. Halloween also had a better debut than the blockbuster horror movies Prometheus (6.3 million), World War Z (7.9 million), Van Helsing (8.3 million), and the 1999 version of The Mummy (8.5 million) but fell short of The Mummy Returns (12 million), I Am Legend (11.2 million), the 2014 Godzilla remake (11.2 million), and all Jurassic Park/World installments.

I should point out that Halloween only had a budget of $10 million, making it already more profitable than many of its peers. For the talent involved, the sequel gave the very economical Blumhouse Productions its best debut (beating Paranormal Activity‘s 6.7 million tickets), and the same goes for filmmaker David Gordon Green (his previous best was Pineapple Express with an opening of 3.2 million people) and star Jamie Lee Curtis, whose previous best opening-weekend attendance belonged to True Lies (6.2 million) with Beverly Hills Chihuahua close behind. It’s not the best for Judy Greer, though, because she is in Jurassic World for all of about five minutes.

The factors of Halloween‘s success are varied. A lot of fans surely came out for the return of the real Michael Myers without any of the prior sequels’ baggage and to watch Jamie Lee Curtis as a heavily armed survivor looking to kill her assailant of 40 years ago. It’s like the Star Wars: The Force Awakens of slasher movies, sort of. And the direct sequel to the original’s reviews happen to be the franchise’s best since that first movie. That may not be saying much, but critical favor could have drawn certain skeptics out to the movies over the weekend. Those who rushed out for that frontloaded Friday were mostly satisfied, though its ‘B+’ grade via CinemaScore polling puts its reception on par with that of Halloween: Resurrection.

Movie theater attendance was up overall the last few days, with this particular weekend (42nd of the year) posting record-breaking ticket sales of about 18.7 million, the highest on record (that is, since 1982). Venom is still doing pretty well, dipping only another 48.5% in its third weekend to fall to third place. A Star is Born continues to have amazing legs, jumping above Venom and staying in second place with only a 33% drop from last weekend. Even First Man is holding better than expected. The Hate U Give, meanwhile, expanded into wide release with so-so attendance (0.8 million) but the chance of further success given its rare ‘A+’ grade via CinemaScore polling.

Oddly enough, while it seems like the movies are having an amazing October, this month is still quite low compared to many other years, even with one more weekend and 10 whole days left to go. This coming Friday’s openers aren’t too promising, either, though Halloween should have a strong second weekend ahead of the titular holiday next Wednesday. At least 2018 is back on top, attendance-wise, compared to the last few years. This past weekend put the total ticket sales at about 1.0427 billion, slightly better than 2016’s 1.0413 billion. Last year hadn’t even hit a billion by this point, even with IT.

Here are the weekend’s top 10 titles by the number of tickets sold with new and newly wide titles in bold and totals in parentheses:

1. Halloween – 8.6 million (8.6 million)
2. A Star is Born – 2.2 million (14.3 million)
3. Venom – 2 million (19.4 million)
4. Goosebumps 2 – 1.1 million (3.3 million)
5. First Man – 0.94 million (3.4 million)
6. The Hate U Give – 0.86 million (1.2 million)
7. Smallfoot – 0.7 million (7.5 million)
8. Night School – 0.6 million (7.6 million)
9. Bad Times at the El Royale – 0.4 million (1.5 million)
10. The Old Man & the Gun – 0.2 million (0.5 million)

All non-forecast box office figures via Box Office Mojo.

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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.