Halloween is no trick or treat for theaters, which get rocks instead of candy every time. Last year, the Halloween weekend was the second-lowest grossing of 2016. In 2015, when October 31 fell on Saturday, it was the single worst. There’s a chance this year won’t reach the same depths; in the competition for the Most Awful Weekend of 2017, there’s those weekends right before Labor Day — and the traditionally wretched second weekend of December is still to come. Still, it will be weak with “Jigsaw” (the latest in the “Saw” franchise), “Suburbicon,” George Clooney’s poorly reviewed satire, and “Thank You for Your Service,” with Miles Teller as an Iraq War veteran.
Holiday weekends are a big deal for studios, but they can be tricky. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the easiest ones to deal with, and serve as the best time of year to reach older audiences and families. Independence Day can even mean a five-day holiday for some.
Halloween is different. It’s not a legal holiday, but it means means lots of weekend events — for kids and grown-ups — that render moviegoing secondary. In recent years that’s become especially true for adult audiences, which have embraced October 31 with renewed enthusiasm. It now ranks as a major competitive group activity, along with the Super Bowl. (That football weekend usually ranks among the worst for box office.)
It seems like an obvious slot for a horror movie, but many position themselves a week or more earlier (“Happy Death Day” this year). “Jigsaw” is a throwback to earlier releases in the series, which owned the date from 2004-2010. “Jigsaw” might boost the weekend, but most distributors have given up.
Halloween weekend also precedes the first weekend of November, which has become one of the year’s most desirable slots. No one “owns” the date, but recent years have seen films from Marvel, Disney Animation, as well James Bond and Christopher Nolan entries. That means fierce competition on a Halloween film’s second weekend, with the likely decline dooming most to short runs.
Meantime, early October has risen as an appealing time, while added playoff series and games for the World Series mean it often ends after Halloween, with prime nighttime games over all three weekend nights.
So, late October is an orphan. Expect another weekend that adds to the growing 2017 shortfall.