‘Halloween Kills’ is the Biggest Horror Movie of the Year

Meanwhile, Ridley Scott had the worst debut of his directorial career with 'The Last Duel.'
Halloween Kills Trailer Michael Myers

Welcome to our weekly box office report, which we do a little differently. Rather than focusing on the money, FSR senior editor Christopher Campbell is more interested in the estimated attendance — or number of tickets sold. Because the value of money changes over the years, but the value of actual moviegoers remains the same. This week, we look at the opening box office attendance numbers for the horror sequel Halloween Kills and Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel.

It’s October. There’s a big horror franchise sequel out in theaters. How could it not do well? Actually, there were a number of obstacles in the way of Michael Myers this time around. Following the success of Halloween (2018), which opened to $76 million, the latest installment faced a pandemic, a day-and-date streaming option, and comparably awful reviews. But Halloween Kills exceeded industry expectations for a box office debut of $49.4 million.

That’s about 5.4 million tickets sold** in the first three days (plus Thursday night previews). The previous Halloween sold about 8.4 million in its opening weekend three years ago. The attendance for Halloween Kills is down 36 percent from Halloween. Remember that Universal Pictures chair Donna Langley recently predicted box office will be down 20 percent from pre-pandemic numbers. Of course, that only means that without COVID-19, Halloween Kills would have done $60.4 million, or 6.6 million tickets.

Halloween Movies Opening Weekend Box Office Attendance

RankMovie TitleOpening Weekend Box Office AttendanceDomestic Total Box Office Attendance
1Halloween (2018)8.4 million17.5 million
2Halloween Kills (2021)5.4 million5.4 million
3Halloween (2007)3.8 million8.5 million
4Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)3.5 million11.7 million
5Halloween II (1981)2.7 million9.2 million
6Halloween II (2009)2.18 million4.5 million
7Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)2.15 million4.9 million
8Halloween: Resurrection (2002)2.12 million5.2 million
9Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)1.68 million3.5 million
10Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)1.66 million4.3 million
11Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)1.3 million2.9 million
12Halloween (1978)N/A20.1 million

Halloween Kills Box Office vs. Expectations

In late September, Box Office Pro posted its long-range forecast for Halloween Kills, predicting a gross somewhere between $35 million and $55 million. The actual gross hit near the top end of that field. Early this month, the site updated its forecast, moving up the low point to $40 million but keeping $55 million as the peak of possibility. Last week, the scope was the same, but the site marked $48 million as the bullseye figure. Obviously, Halloween Kills exceeded that expectation.

The factors in determining the forecast included its unexpected day-and-date streaming release. Halloween Kills was available for Peacock subscribers at no additional cost as of Friday. Presumably, many fans would stay home, for reasons of safety or comfort or budget, and that would cut into the box office gross. Even predicting the R-rated, non-acclaimed Halloween Kills would slightly beat A Quiet Place Part II, to be the biggest horror movie of the year, seemed too generous.

Critics vs. Audience

Compared to both the original Halloween and the 2018 sequel of the same name, the reviews for Halloween Kills were brutal. Both of the former installments are Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. They are the only positively reviewed movies of the franchise, though, and the latest sequel is still the fourth-best-reviewed out of a dozen titles, including the Rob Zombie reboot duo. Halloween Kills has a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 42 score on Metacritic. Halloween ’18 is at 78% and 67.

But do horror fans care about reviews? Especially when it comes to this franchise? They’ve seen worse. Also, they feel an investment in the story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers again after the retconning 2018 movie.  Interestingly enough, the Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score for Halloween ’18 was a bit lower than the critics’ score. This time, after the first weekend, the Audience Score is much higher, about equal to that of the previous movie. The User Score is also higher at Metacritic.

The fans who turned out on opening night showed less satisfaction with Halloween Kills than the online ratings would indicate. According to CinemaScore polling, moviegoers graded the sequel a “B-“, which is significantly lower than Halloween‘s “B+” grade in 2018. Even Halloween: Resurrection, which ranks 10th in the franchise on Rotten Tomatoes, managed a “B+” back in 2002.  Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later are also “B-” titles.

What About Streaming?

As of this writing, Comcast has not released any numbers for Halloween Kills views on Peacock. But this isn’t like Disney easily reporting the number of digital buys on Black Widow. That’s a movie that subscribers had to pay extra for on Disney+. You can’t necessarily determine how many people watched it on streaming, but you can report a dollar amount spent. Halloween Kills is available to all subscribers. Comcast may wind up figure out streaming counts, like Netflix reports, but it’s not as meaningful here.

Compare the number of subscribers to those other streaming services. Netflix has 209 million worldwide. Disney+ has 116 million through much of the world. Even HBO Max, which similarly does day-and-date releases at no additional cost, has more subscribers with 67.5 million in most of North America. Peacock has 54 million subscribers, and only in the US. Bragging about views will never fare as competitive against Netflix. Also, Halloween Kills likely did better given that not that many fans have Peacock.

The Last Duel is a New Low for Ridley Scott

In other new release box office news, Ridley Scott‘s The Last Duel was a major disappointment. The medieval drama, which offers period action spectacle, managed a gross of just $4.8 million. That comes out to roughly half a million tickets sold. And, sadly, that’s Scott’s lowest opening weekend attendance ever. Last week’s industry expectations were almost double that amount. And actually, at one time, the high point of its possible box office was $15 million.

What went wrong for Scott and its star-studded cast? Was it the hairdos for those actors? Was it the heavy subject matter of rape combined with the historical aspect? It’s currently the director’s fifth-best-reviewed movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes, with an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Over on Metacritic, though, it ranks as the ninth-best-reviewed with a score of 68. Its Audience/User scores are also pretty favorable. Opening-night moviegoers polled by CinemaScore graded it a “B+,” which is better than his last two movies.

Perhaps the audience for this kind of movie isn’t as eager to return to theaters still. That may also be why No Time to Die had a worse debut than anticipated. The crowd who goes to see a Venom or Halloween movie doesn’t totally overlap with the more serious blockbusters. Who knows if Scott’s Gladiator or the hit James Bond movie Skyfall would do well today either? I don’t think MGM needs to worry about their own new Scott film, House of Gucci (out on November 24th), though. Its more contemporary true story — not to mention its Lady Gaga lead — has a lot more appeal.

Ridley Scott Movies Opening Weekend Box Office Attendance

RankMovie TitleOpening Weekend Box Office AttendanceDomestic Total Box Office Attendance
1Hannibal (2001)10.2 million29.2 million
2Gladiator (2000)6.5 million34.8 million
3The Martian (2015)6.44 million27.1 million
4Prometheus (2012)6.41 million15.9 million
5American Gangster (2007)6.3 million18.9 million
6Robin Hood (2010)4.6 million13.3 million
7Kingdom of Heaven (2005)4.19 million10.1 million
8Alien: Covenant (2017)4.03 million8.3 million
9Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)2.95 million8 million
10Black Rain (1989)2.44 million11.6 million
11G.I. Jane (1997)2.42 million10.5 million
12Matchstick Men (2003)2.17 million6.1 million
13Blade Runner (1982)2.09 million11.2 million
14Body of Lies (2008)1.79 million5.5 million
15Black Hawk Down (2001)1.75 million (Wide Release Debut)19.2 million
16Thelma & Louise (1991)1.45 million10.8 million
17Alien (1979)1.41 million32.6 million
18Legend (1985)1.2 million4.4 million
19The Counselor (2013)0.96 million2.1 million
20White Squall (1996)0.88 million2.3 million
21Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)0.74 million2.6 million
221492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)0.72 million1.7 million
23All the Money in the World (2017)0.62 million2.8 million
24A Good Year (2006)0.57 million1.1 million
25The Last Duel (2021)0.52 million0.5 million
26The Duellists (1977)N/AN/A

What Are Honsla Rakh and Most Eligible Bachelor?

Two more new releases filled the box office top 10 this weekend: Honsla Rakh and Most Eligible Bachelor. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of either of them. They’re focused releases that do well despite a lack of heavy promotion in the mainstream areas. And they are playing on fewer than 200 screens.

Both are Indian romantic comedies set primarily in North America, though Honsla Rakh is Punjabi-language and Most Eligible Bachelor is Telugu-language. Their box office debuts are especially impressive given their 145-minute and 170-minute runtimes, respectively. It’s no wonder Honsla Rakh also had the second-best per-screen average of the weekend.

Other new releases in limited release that did not crack the top 10 include Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island, which has received rave reviews. Its screen count is more than that of Honsla Rakh but its box office gross ($56,000) and per-screen numbers ($486) are much lower. The indie drama Hard Luck Love Song was not far behind with a $37,000 debut.

Box Office Attendance for October 15 - October 17, 2021

RankMovie TitleWeekend AttendancePer-Screen AttendanceTotal Domestic AttendanceStudio
1Halloween Kills5.4 million1,4565.5 millionUniversal Pictures
2No Time to Die2.6 million59010.8 millionMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
3Venom: Let There Be Carnage1.8 million44918.3 millionSony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
4The Addams Family 20.8 million2144.6 millionUnited Artists Releasing
5The Last Duel0.5 million1690.5 millionTwentieth Century Fox
6Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings0.4 million15823.8 millionWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
7Honsla Rakh0.08 million7710.08 millionN/A
8Free Guy0.07 million7713.2 million20th Century Studios
9Lamb0.06 million680.2 millionA24
10Most Eligible Bachelor0.05 million2630.05 millionN/A

*Initially box office grosses are estimated and then are later updated for actual figures.

** Ticket sales and attendance figures are determined with each year’s average ticket prices. Currently, for 2021, that average is $9.16.

All box office gross figures are sourced from Box Office Mojo, The Numbers, and Box Office Pro unless otherwise stated.

Christopher Campbell: Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.