October Box Office Sinks to 21-Year Low

The October box office played out the way studios and analysts predicted it would: an improvement from a miserable September, but still well below where theaters need business to be. In fact, October’s box office came in at the lowest level in 21 years.

At the start of the month, distribution chiefs told TheWrap that they expected October domestic totals to be somewhere between 20%-30% below the $623 million earned in October 2021, when COVID-delayed releases like “No Time to Die,” “Dune” and “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” accelerated the pandemic recovery process.

With a $468 million domestic total in October 2022, that prediction ended up being right on the money with a year-over-year monthly total drop of approximately 25%. Still, ticket sales saw a 44% improvement over the $323 million total reported in September; but compared to past Octobers, it’s a more than two-decade low. Not counting the pandemic year of 2020, this is the first time since 2001 that October totals failed to exceed $500 million.

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The drop was expected due to the lack of major event releases — with only Warner Bros.’ “Black Adam” grossing more than $100 million — $115 million in North America to date. Dwayne Johnson’s DC film is likely to finish with a domestic total of around $160 million — which would put it alongside MGM’s “No Time to Die” and Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” — but below the $213.5 million domestic total of Sony’s “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” which was last October’s top grosser.

Aside from “Black Adam,” there were no other standouts in theaters. “Halloween Ends” is turning a theatrical profit for Universal and Blumhouse, but its presence on NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service and poor word-of-mouth sank its domestic total to $61 million; it’s set to finish with a cume below the $92 million of its 2021 predecessor “Halloween Kills.”

“Halloween Ends” was beaten in the horror market by ”Smile,” a low-budget film from newcomer Parker Finn that grossed $85 million during October and has become another victory in Paramount’s incredible year, but was never going to be a substitution for the multiple four-quadrant films that came out last year.

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More marginal support came from “Ticket to Paradise” ($34.5 million), a romantic comedy from Universal attracting older moviegoers, and “Lyle Lyle Crocodile,” the sole family release of the month that failed to gain traction with parents and kids the way past Sony live-action/CGI hybrids like “Peter Rabbit” did.

November will see grosses dramatically increase thanks mostly to Disney/Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” but the month will also be a big test for other genres. Universal will release Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” an early Oscar favorite, in a test to see if adult dramas with mass appeal can still perform in theaters. Disney will also release the animated film “Strange World” in hopes that it can theatrically outperform last year’s “Encanto,” which had a middling run at the box office before enjoying immense streaming success on Disney+.

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