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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Five Nights at Freddy’s‘ makes a killing at the box office, nabs a $78-million opening

Universal Pictures' "Five Nights at Freddy's" scored a huge opening weekend to take home the title of box-office champion. (Patti Perret/Universal Pictures/TNS)  (Patti Perret/Universal Pictures/TNS)
By Carlos De Loera Los Angeles Times

Nothing was scarier this weekend for Taylor Swift and Martin Scorsese than “Five Nights at Freddy’s.”

Universal Pictures’ animatronics-come-to-life horror flick scared up $78 million at the box office in its opening weekend, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

The film finished well ahead of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” – released through a direct distribution deal with AMC Theatres – which scored $14.7 million in its third weekend for a North American total of $149.3 million. The record-breaking concert film held the title of box-office champion for two straight weeks.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” far exceeded baseline initial projections that it would grab at least of $50 million in the United States and Canada.

Internationally, the Josh Hutcherson-led movie brought in $52.6 million according to studio estimates for a worldwide total of $130.6 million.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” was able to dominate the box office despite the picture having a same-day release on NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock.

The video game adaptation now holds the title for best opening weekend for a horror film in 2023, surpassing the domestic score of “Scream VI” at $44.5 million and the worldwide haul of “The Nun II” at $88.1 million.

Fueled by Halloween and an immense built-in fan base, the film had the second-biggest domestic opening of all time for a video game-based picture behind only this year’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which opened to $146.4 million. It also scored the best opening of all time for a Blumhouse production, besting 2018’s “Halloween,” which started at $76.2 million.

Rounding out the top five at the weekend’s domestic box office were Paramount Pictures and Apple’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which garnered $9 million in its sophomore outing for a North American total of $40.7 million; Angel Studios’ “After Death,” which got $5.1 million in its North American opening; and Universal Pictures’ “The Exorcist: Believer,” which conjured up $3.1 million for a North American haul of $59.4 million.

Directed by Emma Tammi and based on the successful video game franchise created by Scott Cawthon, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” follows a down-on-his-luck security guard (Hutcherson) who takes a job working the overnight shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, the super-creepy, long-abandoned ‘80s relic that was headlined by its merry band of animatronics. It turns out that the rusted-over puppets are inhabited by bloodthirsty spirits, leaving Hutcherson’s character to fight for his life, while also trying to maintain legal custody of his younger sister (Piper Rubio). The movie also stars horror veteran Matthew Lillard, Mary Stuart Masterson and Elizabeth Lail.

The PG-13 picture landed a paltry 25% score from critics, but an audience score of 89% on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and got an A-minus grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

“(‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’) spins out of control as it attempts the fool’s errand that has befallen many a video game movie: shoehorning a weird and immersive experience into the bones of Hollywood narrative convention,” writes Times film reporter Jen Yamato.

“(It) leans too hard into traumasploitation to justify its convoluted story, as well as its 1 hour, 50 minute runtime,” Yamato continues in her review. “By the time the final secrets of its grim mystery are revealed, even the scares have lost both edge and inspiration, less concerned with animatronic monsters than the human ones among us.”

Opening in wide release next week are A24’s Sofia Coppola-directed film “Priscilla” and Lionsgate’s “The Marsh King’s Daughter.”