How ‘Scream’ Reboot Scored as the Year’s First Box Office Hit

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Young horror buffs pushed the slasher film to a $34 million four-day opening

Paramount Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment

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Paramount’s “Scream” reboot is setting up to be a good start for the studio’s 2022, already turning a profit theatrically thanks to its status as a cheap horror film with a classic slasher villain that appealed to a new generation of moviegoers.

On Martin Luther King Day weekend, the fifth “Scream” film earned a three-day opening of $30 million from 3,664 theaters, with estimates projecting that total to grow to $34 million after Monday. It’s a result that meets pre-release projections from trackers and stands as the best opening for a horror film released on MLK weekend. It’s also a better result than the last “Scream” film, which was released in 2011 and opened to just $18.6 million over three days.

While Sony moved its big-budget Marvel movie “Morbius” from January to April due to the Omicron surge, “Scream” had much less risk attached to it with a reported budget of just $24 million. By comparison, “A Quiet Place — Part II,” Paramount’s sole major release in 2021, had a reported budget of $61 million.

And as “A Quiet Place II” and other 2021 horror franchise films like “Halloween Kills” and “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” proved, the genre is a reliable draw for 18- to 35-year-old moviegoers who have shown up even during the worst days of the pamdemic. So even with Omicron continuing to sandbag turnout, a film with “Scream”‘s budget level can still find theatrical profit.

To do this, Paramount focused on a largely digital marketing campaign to target moviegoers who were too young to see the original “Scream” trilogy in the late ‘90s. Along with ads primarily focused on digital platforms like YouTube and Twitch, Paramount created a marketing campaign on Spotify in which the infamous Ghostface killer, voiced by Roger L. Jackson, would send users a threatening call based on the music they streamed.

Even given these efforts to reach Millennial and Gen Z moviegoers and the lower turnout of audiences over 35, some analysts expected the opening weekend audience for “Scream” would skew more toward Gen X moviegoers given both its R rating and its appeal to those who saw the original “Scream” while they were in high school or college when it first hit theaters 25 years ago.

But as it turns out, the audience share for moviegoers over 35 for “Scream” this weekend was 23%, which is slightly below the 25% share for that demographic for “A Quiet Place II.” With nostalgia for “Scream” not particularly strong compared to other hit horror titles — or at least not strong enough to overcome Omicron concerns — younger moviegoers continued to pull the film’s weight.

Paramount Pictures/Spyglass

“I give a lot of credit to our marketing team on this film,” Paramount domestic distribution president Chris Aronson told TheWrap. “They did a great job introducing ‘Scream’ to a new generation that might not have seen the previous films and we’re expecting very good word of mouth from those younger moviegoers.”

With this solid start to 2022, Paramount is hoping to keep the momentum going with a packed slate. Next up in February is “Jackass Forever,” a film that was even cheaper to make than “Scream” with a reported budget of just $10 million.

After that will come pricier titles like the Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum romantic adventure “The Lost City” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” in the spring. By then, Paramount and other studios must bank on COVID infection rates dropping enough to boost turnout among a bigger portion of the moviegoing public.