From Worst to First: Tentpole Treatment Sends October to Record $819 Million, Highest Attendance Mark In 4 Years

Thanks to the industry’s continued embrace of the year-round calendar for high profile, blockbuster-level movies, October’s domestic box office finished with an $819 million haul — setting a new record and flipping the script from recent third quarter starts.

That represents a major reversal of fortune for the month, coming in 47 percent higher than last year’s $557 million (the lowest grossing October since 2007 and the month’s lowest attendance since 1991*).

By contrast, this October’s performance beat the previous earnings record (2014’s $758 million) by 8 percent and reached October’s third highest attendance level since 2009**. Last month’s market was also up 24 percent from October 2016’s $658.5 million.

This achievement was almost a foregone conclusion when the month began with Venom and A Star Is Born forming a massive one-two punch. Sony’s Marvel anti-hero bested Gravity‘s previous October record opening weekend ($80.3 million vs. $55.8 million), while Warner’s acclaimed Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga remake bowed to $42.9 million over the same frame. Two weeks later, Universal’s Halloween fell just shy of Venom‘s mark with $76.2 million on opening weekend — a new record for slasher movies, and the second highest R-rated horror debut of all-time behind It ($123.4 million).

The marquee trio made this the first October since 2010 (Paranormal Activity 2’s $40.7 million and Jackass 3-D‘s $50.4 million) to feature two or more opening weekends north of $40 million.

Venom has since amassed $190 million, while Star has legged out to $153.1 million, and Halloween stands at $137.9 million through October 31.

The turnaround from last year is hard to overstate. By comparison, only one release in October 2017 cracked $30 million on opening weekend — Blade Runner 2049‘s $32.8 million. With $82.5 million in 26 days of play, it represented the only title to earn more than $50 million all month.

Despite a modest $16 million debut from the strongly reviewed First Man, its $39.4 million haul — plus $39.8 million from Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween — offered their own contributions to the past month, while The Hate U Give has impressed with $19.7 million in a staggered wide release. Unfortunately, Bad Times at the El Royale under-performed with $17.1 million.

Not to be forgotten, September holdovers also had a say in the month with Smallfoot adding $50.4 million to its haul and Night School pulling another $45 million.

2018 overall now stands at an impressive $9.7 billion through the end of October, 11 percent ahead of 2017’s $8.7 billion and 5 percent ahead of record-holder 2016’s $9.2 billion through the same point on the calendar.


* = October 1991 earned $254.1 million, or $552 million adjusted for estimated 2018 prices
** = October 2014 earned $758 million ($848 million adjusted) and October 2009 earned $693.4 million ($845 million adjusted)

Shawn Robbins

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