‘Halloween Kills’ slaughters box office competition

Nothing can stop Michael Meyers, not even a day-and-date release. Perhaps owing to the fact that Peacock is still a nascent streaming platform with an arguably smaller cultural footprint than HBO Max, the Universal sequel “Halloween Kills” overcame its at-home availability to score the biggest horror movie debut during the pandemic with an estimated $50.35 opening.

Directed by David Gordon Green, “Halloween Kills” picks up directly after the events of Green’s 2018 “Halloween,” which itself was a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic of the same name. All three films star Jamie Lee Curtis, although due to the injuries her character, Laurie Strode, sustained in the 2018 version of “Halloween,” Curtis takes a back seat in the new film to Meyers himself, who slaughters numerous residents of the fictional Haddonfield en route to a twist ending that sets up the franchise’s presumed final installment, “Halloween Ends.” That movie arrives next year.

In keeping with pandemic times, “Halloween Kills” was also available to Peacock Premium subscribers. The service, as pointed out by Matthew Belloni at Puck, sat atop the Apple Store’s most downloaded apps list all weekend as well.

As mentioned, the estimated $50 million opening also gave “Halloween Kills” the biggest horror launch of the coronavirus pandemic. The previous best belonged to “A Quiet Place Part II,” with $47.5 million. “Halloween Kills” also scored the best R-rated debut since before the pandemic began.

The news wasn’t as positive for the weekend’s other wide release, “The Last Duel.” Despite a cast of stars that included Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer, the Ridley Scott drama flopped with audiences. The film finished in fifth place with just $4.8 million, well below expectations. Its failure to connect with young ticket buyers was a deadly blow: Just 19 percent of tickets sold for “The Last Duel” came from buyers under the age of 25, as compared to 47 percent for “Halloween Kills.” In recent weeks, as The Hollywood Reporter noted, box office results show those over 35, the target audience for “The Last Duel,” have been slow to return to theaters — something that will likely continue to ding adult-oriented dramas throughout the remainder of the year.

Elsewhere on the chart, last week’s top choice, “No Time to Die,” finished in second place with an estimated $24.3 million. That puts the James Bond film just shy of $100 million in North America after two weeks. In third place, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” continued to crush, with an estimated $16.5 million and $168 million total. 

The box office will get another test next week when the blockbuster “Dune” arrives in theaters and on HBO Max.

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