Can ‘Krampus’ Become a Holiday Favorite After Box Office Surprise?

Creepy horror comedy introduces America to horned demon who chases naughty children at Christmas

“Krampus,” a quirky, creepy Christmas comedy about a murderous horned beast that pursues naughty children, did surprisingly well in its box office opening this weekend. It stole the No. 1 spot nationally from “The Hunger Games” finale on Friday, before falling back to second and finishing the weekend in second place with $16 million.

That’s a million dollars more than the production budget of the film from Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures and about $5 million more than analysts projected for the comedy, which debuted ahead of heavyweight holdovers including Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur,” the boxing drama “Creed” and the James Bond thriller “Spectre.”

Is it possible we’ve witnessed the birth of a new holiday tradition?

“If you’re talking about an alternative, non-traditional take on the holidays in a post-Thanksgiving weekend slot, possibly,” said Nick Carpou, Universal’s distribution chief, on Sunday.

Could the character based on a creature from German folklore become a Yuletide favorite like George Bailey of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or Ralphie, the BB-gun-lusting little boy from “A Christmas Story”?

“Probably not,” Carpou told TheWrap. Still, the debut was impressive since “Krampus” was playing in 2,902 theaters, well under the count of “Hunger Games” (4,086), “The Good Dinosaur” (3,749) and “Creed” (3,424).

“Relatively speaking, this was a pretty good weekend overall at the box office (up 26 percent overall from last year) and I think we had something to do with that,” he said.

“Krampus” was directed by “X2” and “Superman Returns” screeenwriter Michael Dougherty and stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Emjay Anthony. It’s Dougherty’s second feature following “Trick r’ Treat,” a direct-to-video horror film that became a minor cult hit in 2009. It was co-written by Zach Shields and Todd Casey and produced by Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia and Dougherty.

The Krampus myth is well-known in some parts of Europe where it’s celebrated with street parades and celebrations, and several of those regions were among the 24 overseas markets in which Universal opened the film. It brought in $3.3 million from abroad over the weekend and opened at No. 1 in Austria, the birthplace of the Krampus legend.

At home, “Krampus” received a “B-” CinemaScore from typically tough-grading horror fans, in line with the critics who have placed the film at 65 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. The crowd was split evenly by gender, and the PG-13-rating brought in a crowd that was half under and half over 21 years of age.

Horror films tend to be very front-loaded commercially, but the film about a boy who accidentally brings the spooky horned demon down on his household’s Yule could translate its box office buzz into a solid run through the rest of the year.

“There’s nothing else like it in the marketplace,” said Carpou with assurance.