‘Candyman’ Grosses $22.3 Million to Become the First #1 Film Directed by a Black Woman

It’s the first time a female Black director has had a #1 film. And even better, it’s for a risk-taking film. Producers take note.
The end of August is known for its box-office doldrums, the exhibition continues to face a dark time — and Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman” scored an estimated $22,370,00 in its initial domestic weekend, beating the lowball projection of $15 million by nearly 50 percent.
That success testifies to the enduring appeal of the 1992 horror film, but it’s not the only good news: The #2 film, “Free Guy” (Disney), dropped only 27 percent in its third weekend.
All told, the weekend grossed $63 million. That’s about the same as last week and it represents 58 percent of the same weekend in 2019. Our ongoing comparative four-week rolling average increased slightly, to 56 percent of the same 2019 period. That’s the highest number since mid-July.
Here are a couple of standout comparisons for “Candyman.” Two years ago, “Angel Has Fallen,” the third film in Lionsgate’s action franchise, opened the same weekend to $21 million. At that time, it was considered an excellent result for the date. Two weeks ago, “Don’t Breathe 2” opened to $10.6 million. That number informed the lowball guesses for “Candyman,” but those didn’t consider several notable factors.
First is the intensity of interest. The original film, which was based on a short story by Clive Barker, centered on an urban legend about the ghost of a murdered son of a slave who reappears and goes on a murderous rampage. The new version, unlike 1992’s, has a Black creative team that includes writing and producing roles for Jordan Peele.
Universal believed it would attract Black viewers with the pedigree of “Get Out” and “Us,” and it did. However, the appeal was more diverse: Per the studio’s audience survey, 37 percent of the audience was Black, white was 30 percent, Latinos 22 percent, and Asians 5 percent. That spread was key to reaching the higher number.
Also restraining initial estimates was the film was it didn’t play it safe. Reviews were among the best for wide studio releases this year, which doesn’t necessarily mean much in reaching a wide audience for a horror film, but they did emphasize the film’s original elements as well as Peele’s influence while emphasizing DaCosta’s individual contribution. An element of danger, a sense of the unknown, strong IP, and execution: That’s a good lesson for producers who fear taking risks.
“Candyman” appears to be the first #1 film from a Black female director. Although some have come close, including Ava DuVernay (“Selma,” “A Wrinkle in Time”) and Gina Prince-Blythewood (“Love and Basketball”), all opened in second place. DaCosta has broken new ground.
Originality was also key to the success of Ryan Reynolds comedy “Free Guy.” It grossed over $79 million after its third weekend, which improved its hold in week 3. However, the best hold belongs to “Jungle Cruise.” In week 5, it dropped only 21 percent and crossed the $100 million domestic mark. Unlike “Candyman” or “Free Guy,” it has home availability (at $29.99). Although alternative platforms have an impact, it appears the key to good holds has much more to do with audience reaction than availability.
Four underwhelming openers from last week all took greater drops. “PAW Patrol” (Paramount), also on the studio’s subscription streaming site, dropped 50 percent (family titles tend to hold better than this second-weekend fall). “The Protege” (Lionsgate) held best, down 43 percent. “The Night House” (Searchlight) fell 57 percent, “Reminiscence” (Warner Bros.) starring Hugh Jackman didn’t even hang on in the top 10; it fell 58 percent (it can also be seen at HBO Max, although that play likely had an only minor impact).
Starting this week, film festivals will roll out the specialized titles that will be critical in rescuing the arthouse market from its low ebb. This week, Bleecker Street opened “Together” directed by Stephen Daldry (“The Hours”) starring James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan as a quarantining couple. Most of its 250 theaters were top-quality locations, but it grossed only $102,000. It did not have review support, similar to Sean Penn’s “Flag Day” (United Artists), which also had a weak opening.
The Top Ten
1. Candyman (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 72; Est. budget: $25 million
$22,370,000 in 3,569 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $6,268; Cumulative: $22,37
2. Free Guy (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #1
$13,556,000 (-27%) in 3,940 theaters (-225); PTA: $3,441; Cumulative: $79,311,000
3. PAW Patrol (Paramount) Week 2; Last weekend #2; also on Paramount Plus
$6,625,000 (-50%) in 3,189 theaters (+5); PTA: $2,077; Cumulative: $24,081,000
4. Jungle Cruise (Disney) Week 5; Last weekend #3; also on Premium VOD at Disney+
$5,020,000 (-21%) in 3,370 theaters (-205); PTA: $1,490; Cumulative: $100,110,000
5. Don’t Breathe 2 (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #4
$2,835,000 (-44%) in 2,703 theaters (-302); PTA: $1,049; Cumulative: $24,579,000
6. Respect (United Artists) Week 3; Last weekend #5; also on Premium VOD
$2,269,000 (-40%) in 2,607 theaters (-600); PTA: $870; Cumulative: $19,743,000
7. The Suicide Squad (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend #6; also on HBO Max
$2,035,000 (-40%) in 2,436 theaters (-490); PTA: $835; Cumulative: $52,779,000
8. The Protege (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #7
$1,650,000 (-43%) in 2,577 theaters (no change); PTA: $640; Cumulative: $5,724,000
9. The Night House (Searchlight) Week 2; Last weekend #8
$1,218,000 (-57%) in 2,240 theaters (no change); PTA: $544; Cumulative: $5,180,000
10. Old (Universal) Week 6; Last weekend #10
$830,000 (-27%) in 1,136 theaters (-411); PTA: $731; Cumulative: $46,500,000
Additional specialized/limited/independent releases
Together (Bleecker Street) New – Metacritic: 57
$102,001 in 250 theaters; PTA: $408
The Lost Leonardo (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3
$39,908 in 36 (+25) theaters; Cumulative: $88,887
The Green Knight (A24) Week 5; also on PVOD
$319,669 in 552 (-363) theaters; Cumulative: $16,583,000
Stillwater (Focus) Week 5; also on PVOD
$255,000 in 739 (-287) theaters; Cumulative: $14,042,000
Nine Days (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 5
$16,734 in 37 (-27) theaters; Cumulative: $631,885
12 Mighty Orphans (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 12
$65,705 in 255 (+230) theaters; Cumulative: $3,621,000

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 01: “Little Woods” Writer and Director Nia DaCosta attends the Los Angeles Pink Carpet Premiere of “Little Woods” hosted by Refinery29, NEON and Rooftop Cinema Club at NeueHouse Hollywood on April 1, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images)

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