By JAKE COYLE AP Film Writer
Oscar weekend belonged to “Scream VI” in theaters, as the horror sequel notched a franchise-best $44.5 million in domestic ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group co-production sailed past expectations, easily surpassing the previous series high of $32 million that “Scream 2” opened with in 1997. The film’s robust debut, coming as Hollywood prepared to gather for the 95th Academy Awards, was yet another reminder of how horror has come to be one of the industry’s few sure things at the box office.
After lying dormant for more than a decade, the “Scream” franchise, previously directed by Wes Craven and released by Dimension Films, has found a ripe revival with a young cast led by “Wednesday” star Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have brought back the 27-year-old series’ meta slasher storylines and serial killer Ghostface, and it’s paying off. Last year’s “Scream V” grossed $137 million worldwide on a production budget of $24 million. In the latest chapter, Courtney Cox returns as reporter Gale Weathers, as does Hayden Panettiere, a veteran of “Scream IV.” But it’s the first “Scream” movie without Neve Campbell.
“Scream VI,” quickly greenlit after the success of “V,” has also fared fairly well with both critics and audiences. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 75% fresh rating. Moviegoers gave it a “B+” CinemaScore, a decent grade for a horror film.
Last week’s top film, “Creed III,” slid to second after its above-expectations launch. Michael B. Jordan’s MGM “Rocky” spinoff, starring him and Jonathan Majors, earned $27.1 million in its second weekend. It has rapidly passed $100 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters.
Columbia Pictures’ “65,” a science-fiction thriller starring Adam Driver as a space explorer stranded on prehistoric Earth, opened in third place with an estimated $12.3 million from 3,405 locations. That might be better than expected, too, for a film that got terrible reviews from critics. (It scored just 35% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.) But “65” reportedly carried a hefty production budget of about $90 million, not accounting for tax rebates.
Bobby Farrelly’s “Champions,” starring Woody Harrelson as a disgraced coach trying to lead a basketball team to the Special Olympics, opened with $5.2 million in 3,030 locations. Audiences (an “A” CinemaScore) have liked it more than reviewers (53% on Rotten Tomatoes).