Nia DaCosta, Jordan Peele and Win Rosenfeld’s Nia DaCosta Candyman (review) began its domestic box office sprint last night with $1.9 million in Thursday preview grosses. With showings starting as early as 7:00 pm, this weekend’s only new wide release put up preview numbers on par with Free Guy ($2.2 million toward a $28.3 million debut), Don’t Breathe 2 ($965,000 toward a $10.5 million opening), Jungle Cruise ($2.7 million toward a $35 million launch) and Old ($1.5 million toward a $16.5 million opening weekend).
That positions the $25 million, R-rated horror sequel for a $20-$25 million opening weekend. How it fares is, of course, dependent on buzz and general audience interest. The reviews have thus far been relatively positive (86% fresh and 7.6/10 on Rotten Tomatoes), while the film has been eagerly anticipated since (at least) the first teaser trailer dropped on February 27, 2020. The brutal, violent, pulse-pounding sell positioned the flick as the multi-generational demographically-specific horror event of the summer, but obviously the film did not open as scheduled on June 12, 2020.
In the before times, I’d have pegged this one as a huge opener. You have a beloved and respected IP which has been mostly dormant since the 1990’s, you have the obvious marquee value in Jordan Peele’s name in the credits (even when he’s not directing), you have the obvious merging of popcorn entertainment and social issues/of-the-moment topicality and you had that killer first teaser getting everyone pumped up for the show. Alas, much of that post-teaser heat has understandably dissipated, even as the issues at the heart of the Candyman series have remained at the forefront of our cultural failings.
There’s a reason most of the franchise titles offered up this season have been horror movies. The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It can earn less than other Conjuring Universe films ($197 million versus even $228 million for Annabelle Comes Home) and still quintuple its $39 million budget. M. Night Shyamalan’s Old can earn less than The Visit ($98 million in 2015) and still gross 4.5x (and counting) its $18 million budget. Even if Halloween Kills earns closer to Halloween: H20 ($55 million domestic in 1998) than Halloween ($252 million worldwide in 2018), it’s a $15-$20 million sequel to a $10 million flick.
As such, even if Candyman ends up with an opening weekend closer to Old ($16.5 million) than Get Out ($33 million) or even the first Don’t Breathe ($26 million), well, that’s at least partially due to the circumstances of its release. And with DaCosta already at work on the Captain Marvel sequel (The Marvels), it’s not like even a genuine underperformance for this much-anticipated (at least online) flick is going to make a dent in her trajectory. Nonetheless, Candyman is likely to be yet another viable horror property that will have to settle for making “some of the money” instead of “all the money.”