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Universal's Freaky has slashed its way onto the scene with a respectable domestic opening of $3.7 million, Variety confirms. The horror-comedy from Happy Death Day director Christopher Landon brought in $1.9 million from international markets for a global tally of $5.6 million. The movie's production budget was a meager $6 million, meaning that it doesn't have far to go in order to be considered a box office success.
“It’s going to be very profitable,” David A. Gross, head of the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research, told Variety. "With the pandemic surging and additional U.S. theaters closing, this is a good opening."
“It’ll have much longer legs than the horror genre might normally produce,” added Jeff Orr, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "Christopher Landon has an amazing touch for these films. He can blend horror and comedy like no other."
Inspired by classic body swapping features (the obvious one being Freaky Friday), the film is about Millie, a high schooler (Detective Pikachu's Kathryn Newton) who finds herself trapped in the body of a wanted serial killer (Dodgeball's Vince Vaughn). With the murderer now in her body, Millie must find a way to switch back before the change becomes permanent.
"It’s very different from Happy Death Day. That movie didn’t benefit from gore," Landon recently told SYFY WIRE. "There was nothing to be gained from making that movie gory because you’re supposed to see the moment right up until her death and nothing after. Whereas here, you have this shy teenage girl who suddenly has a serial killer in her body and so, what fun is it to see her almost kill somebody? We had to go for it."
Katie Finneran, Celeste O'Connor, Misha Osherovich, and Alan Ruck co-star.
In terms of opening weekend numbers for North America, Freaky (hitting PVOD Thursday, Dec. 3) trails Happy Death Day by a good $8 million. That comes down to the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to ravage the theatrical industry by keeping crucial markets (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York) on indefinite lockdown. Theater companies received a much-needed shot of optimism last week when Pfizer announced that it had developed a COVID vaccine with more than 90% effectiveness.
Universal has more releases in the coming weeks, like The Croods: A New Age (Nov. 25) and News of the World (Dec. 25). The latter, a Western drama starring Tom Hanks, will eventually be released on Netflix, which recently acquired the global distribution rights.
Elsewhere, Amblin and Focus Features' Come Play added another $1.1 million to its Stateside haul for a domestic total of $7.3 million after a period of 17 days, Forbes reports. Mel Gibson's Fatman, a dark and gritty take on the Santa Claus mythos, is expected to make around $100,000 from a limited theatrical run before it premieres on VOD platforms this coming Tuesday, Nov. 17. Nearing its home release, Christopher Nolan's Tenet brought in an additional $1.7 million worldwide ($735,000 comes from North American ticket sales). To date, the blockbuster has raked in $56.3 million domestically and $353.5 million globally.
"New content drives the theatrical experience," Orr added. "We’re pleased we’ve been able to support exhibition the way we have."
Even with renewed lockdowns going into effect across the world, theaters are faring better in foreign territories. For instance, Toho's Demon Slayer just became the biggest IMAX film in Japan with $14.2 million (dropping just 3% from last weekend). The previous record holder was 2018's Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, with $13.4 million. IMAX recently signed a five-film distribution deal with Toho.
"Toho's Demon Slayer is one of the most remarkable box office successes of the year throughout the world, and further proof that spectacular, must-see blockbuster filmmaking is bringing audiences back to theaters where they feel safe,” IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond said in a statement. “We congratulate our friends at Toho on their impressive achievement, and look forward to continuing our longstanding partnership with the highly anticipated Stand By Me Doreamon 2 next weekend and several new releases ahead in 2021.”
(SYFY WIRE and Universal Studios are both owned by NBCUniversal)