“Scream,” a reimagining of a horror franchise that once appeared to have run out of steam, dominated the box office this weekend, earning a scary good $30.6 million.
The sequel is projected to earn $35 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, a spectacular result considering that “Scream” only cost $25 million to produce. It also represents some positive news for the bruised and battered cinema industry, considering that “Scream’s” success comes amid a spike in COVID-19. It helps that “Scream’s” target demographic is younger, which means that they may not have been as spooked by the highly contagious omicron variant that is fueling the latest iteration of a seemingly endless pandemic.
Paramount and Spyglass Media backed the reboot, marking the first new chapter in the “Scream” series in a decade. It shares a title with the 1996 original — the “Scream” saga is apparently so over integers. The film also brings back familiar faces such as Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, who are once again haunted by a serial killer in a Ghostface mask. “Scream” debuted in 3,664 locations. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, the directing duo behind “Ready or Not,” took over the series from Wes Craven, the horror maestro who died in 2015. Paramount executives praise the directors for bringing a new energy to a series, allowing it to appeal to ticket buyers who weren’t even born when the first film opened.
“They re-invigorated the franchise for pre-existing fans and introduced it to new generation of fans,” says Chris Aronson, Paramount’s domestic distribution chief. “We’ve heard anecdotally that people have seen the film more than once or are planning to see it multiple times.”
Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid and Dylan Minnette round out the cast of the horror sequel. 53% of the opening weekend crowd was male, with 67% of the audiences clocking in between the ages of 18 to 35.
“It shows how different age groups are responding to omicron when it comes to out of the home activities,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “Movies aimed at more mature audiences aren’t doing as well, but for younger moviegoers it seems the pandemic isn’t resonating in a negative way in terms of going to cinemas.”
And while Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” was forced to surrender its box office crown for the first time since it opened in December, the superhero sequel still managed to put up some superb results. The film is projected to gross $20.8 million over the weekend and $26 million over the four-day holiday. With more than $700 million in the bank, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” will soon become the fourth-highest grossing domestic release in history, behind only “Avatar” ($760 million), “Avengers: Endgame” ($858 million) and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ($936 million). The popularity of the film is so out-sized that it was even name-checked during “SNL” this weekend in a skit with James Austin Johnson’s President Biden urging people to stop seeing “Spider-Man” in order to check the spread of omicron.
The opening weekend result for “Scream” is in the neighborhood of the inaugural results for other pandemic era horror hits such as “Halloween Kills” ($49.4 million debut) and “A Quiet Place Part II” ($47.5 million). It also represents a major improvement on 2011’s “Scream 4” which opened to a dispiriting $19.3 million. Unlike other movies released during COVID, “Scream’s” low budget means it will have some impressive profit margins — films like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “No Time to Die” have led the box office, but their high cost meant they lost money during their theatrical releases at a time when ticket sales are depressed.
Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s “Sing 2” captured third place on the domestic box office chart, earning $8.3 million. The film is projected to earn $11 million over the four-day holiday, which will bring its haul to $122.1 million. “The 355,” is in a pitched battle with “The King’s Man,” for fourth place, with both films earning $2.3 million.
Look for “The King’s Man” to come out on top when the four-day weekend results are tallied. The 20th Century Studios’ spy spinoff is expected to earn $3 million, which will bring its total to just under $30 million, a poor result for a pricey film. “The 355” joins “The King’s Man” in dud territory. It should end the four-day weekend with $2.8 million, which will bring its haul to a disastrous $8.9 million. Don’t hold your breath for “The 356.”
Most studios are holding their more compelling films for later in the spring or summer, but there are a few high-profile releases on tap, such as “The Batman” and “Uncharted.” The success of “Spider-Man” and “Scream” may give companies more confidence when it comes to putting their franchise fare out into the marketplace at a time when the public health situation remains challenging.
“When you look at the box office results from some of these films, it signals that we may be nearing the end of the recovery stage of the pandemic for theaters and entering the next phase,” says Aronson.