‘Scream’ Takes #1 from ‘Spider-Man,’ but the Box Office Is Dying from a Lack of Movies

The MLK holiday weekend saw "Spider-Man: No Way Home" approach $700 million, but there's little to sustain theaters over the next six weeks.
Scream 5 ghostface

With an estimated $30.6 million for three days and $35 million for the four-day weekend, Paramount’s “Scream” dislodged “Spider-Man: No Way Home” after four weeks at #1. Adding another $20.8 million, the Marvel sequel is just under a staggering $700 million.

“Scream” is a horror-franchise reboot, the first installment since 2011 (the late Wes Craven directed the previous four) and the first from Paramount. It’s likely to be the biggest performer until March 4, when Warner Bros. will release “The Batman;” that’s a lot of pressure to put on a slasher flick.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend usually sees at least one major new release, limited-date expansions, and an array of Christmas releases still strong in theaters. This year we have one new film, one huge holdover, and little else.

Between 2015-2020, the MLK box-office weekend grossed between $203 million (2015) and $130 million (2019). This year it’s $73 million — $10 million more than the opening gross of “Bad Boys for Life” this weekend in 2020. That moves the four-week rolling box-office average to 59 percent of the same period in 2020; the next six weeks could be worse.

Beyond “Scream” and “Spider-Man,” the lack of strong films is a key factor; so is the absence of new titles, whatever their qualities may be. Disney pulled Adrian Lyne’s “Deep Water” from this weekend; it is now most likely headed to Hulu. Warner Bros. once had its “Sesame Street” reboot set for this date; that now appears likely for HBO Max.

Meanwhile, “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania,” originally set for last October by Sony, debuted on Amazon Prime this weekend. That family-film franchise grossed around a half billion domestic over three titles; it’s now out of theaters.

“Scream” is a thrifty $24 million production and it will be profitable; its estimated four-day total of $35 million is about the same as the total takes of “West Side Story” and “Matrix: Resurrections,” and better than “The King’s Man,” all of which were far more expensive. Lesson learned: The younger audiences that go to horror movies have much lower Covid inhibitions.

Among horror-franchise reboots, “Scream” pales compared to Universal’s “Halloween.” In 2009, it opened to $16 million; the 2018 revival opened to $76 million in late October and the 2021 “Halloween Kills” last October — which streamed for free day-and-date for Peacock subscribers — opened to $50 million.

Another reality check: This weekend’s #3 film, “Sing 2,” would have ranked #13 two years ago. That said, the rest of the top 10 (other than the second weekend of “The 355,” which is off 49 percent) dropped 36 percent or less.


GKids took advantage of screen availability to open its acclaimed Japanese animated film “Belle” to $1.65 million in 1,326 theaters, good enough to place #6. The same weekend in 2020, GKids released “Weathering With You” in only 486 theaters and grossed $1.8 million. It placed #13 with that gross.

The short-term outlook is no better: Next week sees Universal’s wide release of a faith-based period human trafficking drama, “Redeeming Love.” With Sony’s “Morbius” pushed to April, there are no other wide releases in January. Wide releases return February 4 with Paramount’s “Jackass Forever” and Lionsgate’s “Moonfall” starring Halle Berry.

The Top 10

1. Scream (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 61; Est. budget: $24 million

$30,600,000 in 3,664 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $8,352; Cumulative: $30,600,000

2. Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #1

$20,800,000 (-36%) in 3,925 (-87) theaters; PTA: $5,299; Cumulative: $698,700,000

3. Sing 2 (Universal) Week 4; Last weekend #2; also available on Premium VOD

$8,270,000 (-29%) in 3,581 (-132) theaters; PTA: $2,309; Cumulative: $119,359,000

4. The 355 (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #3

$2,340,000 (-49%) in 3,145 (no change) theaters; PTA: $744; Cumulative: $8,418,000

5. The King’s Man (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #4

$2,319,000 (-28%) in 2,510 (-530) theaters; PTA: $924; Cumulative: $28,684,000

6. Belle (GKids) NEW – Cinemascore:; Metacritic: 85

$1,646,000 in 1,326 theaters; PTA: $1,241; Cumulative: $1,646,000

7. American Underdog (Lionsgate) Week 4; Last weekend #6

$1,600,000 (-31%) in 2,394 (-355) theaters; PTA: $637; Cumulative: $21,067,000

8. West Side Story (Disney) Week 6; Last weekend #7

$948,000 (-31%) in 1,460 (-830) theaters; PTA: $649; Cumulative: $33,028,000

9. Licorice Pizza (United Artists) Week 8; Last weekend #9

$883,000 (-10%) in 772 (no change) theaters; PTA: $1,144; Cumulative: $9,517,000

10. Matrix Resurrections (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend # 6; also on HBO Max

$815,000 (-56%) in 1,725 (-1,150) theaters; PTA: $473; Cumulative: $35,816,000


“Parallel Mothers”

Additional specialized/limited/independent releases 

Who We Are (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Metacritic: 90; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2021

$24,312 in 4 theaters; PTA: $6,078

The Conversation (Rialto) (reissue)

$5,500 in 1 theater; PTA: $5,500

Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 4

$129,002 in 50 (+32) theaters; Cumulative: $376,093

Nightmare Alley (Searchlight) Week 5

$271,000 in 550 (-1,360) theaters; Cumulative: $9,100,000

Red Rocket (A24) Week 6

$50,077 in 82 (-62) theaters;  Cumulative: $991,941

Drive My Car (Janus) Week 8

$78,086 in 65 (+36) theaters; Cumulative: $508,054

The French Dispatch (Searchlight) Week 13; also on VOD

$19,000 in 35 (-10) theaters; Cumulative: $16,070,000

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