For movie studios, Halloween weekend is a bit like that spooky abandoned mental hospital up on the hill: Most dare not enter, and those that do often wish they hadn’t. You’d think that the country’s spookiest holiday would be perfect occasion to release a plethora of scary movies, but it’s harder than expected to lure moviegoers to the multiplex on or around All Hallows. Maybe folks would rather drink and dress up, or maybe they’d rather not brave the chilly October wind when every TV channel and streaming service is offering a buffet of horror fare. Any way you slice (and dice) it, scoring a Halloween hit at the box office is surprisingly tricky business.
Paramount was the bravest of the major studios, offering up not one, but two seasonal holiday attractions: Last week’s supposedly final chapter in the Paranormal Activity series, and this week’s sophomoric horror comedy Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse. But the studio shot (or stabbed or garroted or whatever) itself in the foot by experimenting with a new flexible release strategy, opening both films wide, while also securing the right to bring them straight to digital platforms shortly after they fall below the 300-venues mark—a move that’s resulted in a boycott from some theater chains. Scouts, in fact, opened on only 1,509 screens, which might help explain why it landed all the way down in 12th place with a miniscule $1.7 million. (Alternative explanation: Zombie fans are too bummed about what may or may not have happened last week on The Walking Dead to see some frivolous splatterfest about the undead. Or maybe it’s just that the film apparently sucks.)
It was a scary weekend in general for movie executives, as not a single new release managed to break into the top four. Burnt came closest, landing in fifth place with $5 million—a less-than-stellar debut for the star of last year’s biggest hit, though not so bad for a movie called Burnt. The week’s other wide opener, Our Brand Is Crisis, managed $3.4 million, a record low for a major Sandra Bullock vehicle. (Maybe this will dissuade Hollywood from transforming hard-hitting documentaries into gooey crowd-pleasers.) All told, it was the worst weekend for box-office receipts this year—a benchmark that’s likely to hold, given the imminent reemergence of Katniss Everdeen and 007.
Speaking of the latter, Spectre opened in a bunch of global markets—including the U.K., where it naturally did smashing business—and took home an impressive $80.4 million, which bodes well for the continuing success of one of cinema’s longest running franchises. With Bond 24 not opening Stateside until this coming Friday, The Martian managed to eke out another victory, winning the weekend for a fourth time with another $11.4 million in ticket sales and climbing past the $180 million mark. Whether Ridley Scott’s sci-fi survival film will continue to thrive in November against some heavy competition or wilt faster than that jack-o-lantern festering on your front lawn remains to be seen.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.