Focus Features’ low-budget horror film “Come Play” easily placed #1 this weekend. Produced by Amblin Partners (Steven Spielberg, Participant’s Jeff Skoll, and principals from Reliance and Entertainment One), the tech-based genre film (evil forces use tech and social media to traumatize an autistic boy) more than doubled the gross of any other film. It grossed a little over $3 million, which comes to less than $1,500 at each of its 2,183 theaters.
The real news stems from where it played. Though the total theater count was below that of two holdovers (in part because many drive-ins are now closed, and open Regal theaters didn’t play it), nearly all exhibitors showed it. That’s a big deal because the current plan is to release “Come Play” on Premium VOD November 20. That’s a three-week theatrical window, and almost no one blinked.
Focus is a division of Universal, which negotiated a 17-day PVOD window with AMC earlier this year. However, this is the first time that other top chains, led by #3 Cinemark, are playing a first-run film knowing that it’s heading to homes long before the previously established window of around 75 days. (Regular VOD debuts, which come at much lower prices, remain a 90-day window).
With few new films available, exhibitors regard this as a COVID-19 exception. That could be the case, but for years theaters resisted the idea of exceptions. For now, it’s historic and a breakthrough by Focus.
Universal is set to release “Freaky” November 13 and “Croods: New World” November 20, both with planned PVOD play in December. “Croods” in particular is a potentially strong film (assuming family audiences return and/or theaters remain open, hardly guaranteed).
Other results are grim. The top 10 totaled a bit over $8 million, total grosses somewhat over $10 million. Since theaters reopened in late August, it’s the lowest for any weekend that included a new wide release. Last weekend was $9.7 million and $12 million, respectively. Last year, the top 10 represented $99 million and $115 million overall.
Regal, the #2 circuit , is mostly closed, with other San Francisco theaters reopening without concessions. That city’s AMC Metreon was the third best gross for “Tenet” (and the top indoor nationwide); new cities again show interest in Christopher Nolan’s film.
“Tenet” had its biggest drop so far, 31 percent, though still holding above average. It placed fourth and grossed less than $1 million for the first time. Its domestic gross is about $54 million. If New York City and Los Angeles County don’t reopen before it goes to home viewing by mid-December, $60 million looks like its domestic maximum. Its worldwide total is nearing $350 million.
“Honest Thief,” “The War With Grandpa,” and “Empty Man” complete the first-run top five, all with drops of 43 percent or more. “Spell,” Paramount’s Appalachian-set hoodoo-themed horror film took 10th spot with $210,000 in under 400 theaters. It is a day-and-date play with mid-level price VOD ($9.99). At this point, that is a bridge most theaters are unwilling to cross.
The rest of the top 10 is Halloween-related reissues. Nice to have them, but combined they grossed only about $1.3 million. Next week Focus has “Let Him Go,” a thriller with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane — previously the reset date for “Black Widow.”
All eyes remain on Warner Bros. and its plans for “Wonder Woman 1984.” Among multiple sources in exhibition and in distribution (though not Warners), there is little expectation that its Christmas date will be realized. Apart from the huge domestic surge in COVID cases, Western Europe is reeling. Britain, Germany, France, and Italy now look to have cinema partly or totally curtailed for November, with no guarantee that they will return before year’s end. Warners clearly still hopes it might happen.
The Top 10
1. Come Play (Focus) NEW
$3,150,000 in 2,183 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $1,447; Cumulative: $3,150,000
2. Honest Thief (Open Road) Week 4; Last weekend #1
$1,350,000 (-43%) in 2,360 theaters (-142); PTA: $572; Cumulative: $9,535,000
3. The War With Grandpa (101) Week 4; Last weekend #2
$1,081,000 (-44%) in 2,365 theaters (+20); PTA: $457; Cumulative: $11,290,000
4. Tenet (Warner Bros.) Week 9; Last weekend #3
$885,000 (-31%) in 1,601 theaters (-200); PTA: $553; Cumulative: $53,800,000
5. The Empty Man (Disney) Week 2; Last weekend #5
$561,000 (-57%) in 2,051 theaters (+24); PTA: $274; Cumulative: $2,269,000
6. Hocus Pocus (Disney) REISSUE; Last weekend #6
$456,000 (-14%) in 1,130 theaters (-486); PTA: $404; Cumulative: $(adj.) 95,000,000
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Disney) REISSUE; Last weekend #4
$386,000 (-33%) in 1,222 theaters (-392); PTA: $; Cumulative: $(adj.) 170,200,000
8. Halloween (1978) (Compass) REISSUE; Last weekend #18
$(est.) 325,000 (+406%) in 660 theaters (+410); PTA: $; Cumulative: $(adj.) 175,300,000
9. Monsters, Inc. (Disney) REISSUE; Last weekend #7
$232,000 (-53%) in 860 theaters (-1,015); PTA: $270; Cumulative: $(adj.) 471,800,000
10. Spell NEW; also available on Video on Demand
$210,000 in 369 theaters; PTA: $569; Cumulative: $210,000