Horror Comedy "Freaky" (Courtesy of Universal Pictures)
Body-swap horror comedy “Freaky” repeated as the winner of a seriously subdued U.S. box office with $1.2 million at 2,057 locations in North America during the Friday-Sunday weekend.
The Universal and Blumhouse Productions’ movie stars Vince Vaughn as a serial killer and Kathryn Newton as a low-profile high schooler who inadvertently switch bodies on Friday the 13th. “Freaky” has taken in $5.6 million in its first 10 days amid the reluctance of many moviegoers to return to multiplexes until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Universal noted Sunday that the theatrical box office continues to be impaired due to a notable reduction in the number of theaters in North America, as the domestic theatrical footprint has shrunk to roughly 2,800 open locations from 3,400 last weekend.
The performance of “Freaky” contrasts sharply with the same weekend a year ago when Disney launched “Frozen II” with $130 million and overall North American business totaled $206 million, according to Comscore.
“With the continuing surge of the virus this fall, another round of lockdowns and curfews are impacting theaters on a regional basis,” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro. “Business is down sharply from last weekend as a result of temporary closures, even for films that had proven to hold quite well over the past few months.
While the encouraging news of vaccines on the horizon remains a light at the end of the tunnel for the industry, this weekend’s dip at the box office is an expected reminder of the endurance that will be required to push through a very challenging holiday and winter season.”
The seventh weekend of 101 Studios’ comedy “The War With Grandpa” finished in a distant second place with $737,067 at 1,688 sites. The Robert De Niro vehicle has earned $16.2 million after 45 days in theaters.
Focus Features’ thriller “Let Him Go,” starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, followed in third with $710,000 at 1,907 locations. The film, set in Montana in the 1960s, has pulled in $7.9 million in its first 17 days.
Focus’s fourth weekend of the horror movie “Come Play” came in fourth place with $510,000 at 1,364 screens. After three weeks in theaters, the film has made $8 million.
Disney’s re-release of its 1994 holiday comedy-drama “The Santa Clause” pulled in $481,000 at 1,581 sites to finish fifth. Starring Tim Allen, the film originally generated $190 million in worldwide box office.
Open Road’s seventh weekend of Liam Neeson action thriller “Honest Thief” followed in sixth place with $452,000 at 1,254 locations. The film’s 45-day total has hit $13 million.
Gravitas Ventures’ launch of Jackie Chan’s action-adventure “Vanguard” showed little traction at multiplexes with $400,000 at 1,375 theaters. “Vanguard” was released in China on Sept. 30 and took in nearly $44 million in that market.
TriStar Pictures’ R-rated wartime drama “The Last Vermeer” opened with $225,000 from 912 locations. Guy Pearce stars as an art forger who swindles millions of dollars from the Nazis by forging Johannes Vermeer paintings.
Warner Bros.’ 12th weekend of the Christopher Nolan thriller “Tenet” took in $360,000 at 864 sites to lift its three-month domestic total to $56.9 million. “Tenet” has been the only Hollywood tentpole movie released to North American theaters since the pandemic began in March. The film, which carries a $200 million price tag, has performed far better in international markets and is expected to surpass $300 million internationally this week.
The comparatively downbeat domestic performance of “Tenet” served to spur other studios to either delay openings of other major titles or move them to premium video on demand. Amid the prospect of the domestic theatrical market remaining depressed for the foreseeable future, Warner Bros. announced on Nov. 18 that its superhero sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” would debut on the streaming service HBO Max on Dec. 25, the same day it will open in U.S. movie theaters. Starring Gal Gadot, the film will open a week earlier in international theaters, including in China.
Only one wide domestic release is planned for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend with Universal launching “The Croods: A New Age” on Nov. 25. Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said overall business will be tepid in the coming weeks with only about 40% of North American sites open.
“Given the ever-shrinking number of available open theaters, the industry heads into a very fallow holiday marketplace that will of course struggle against a brisk headwind that will require lots of heavy lifting by a very limited number of high-profile titles that remain on the theatrical release calendar,” he said.
Variety's Dave McNary contributed to this post.