‘Five Nights At Freddy’s’ Defies Theatrical Day-And-Date Odds, Is No. 8 In Deadline’s 2023 Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament

Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament is back. While studios during Covid wildly embraced the theatrical day-and-date model when cinemas were closed, they soon realized there’s nothing more profitable than a theatrical release and the downstreams that come with it. If anything, theatrical is the advertisement for a movie’s longevity in subsequent home entertainment windows. Entering the conversation in 2023 were the streamers, such as Apple, who have also realized the necessity of theatrical to eventize their movies. The financial data pulled together here for Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament is culled by seasoned and trusted sources.


Five Nights at Freddy’s

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In a fall box office that saw the tentpole lineup wrecked by the strike, Universal defied the odds with a theatrical day-and-date on Peacock for its feature take on the 2014 video game Five Night’s at Freddy’s. The horror pic delivered producer Blumhouse its biggest opening ever at $80 million stateside — a number on par with Uni’s ultimate Oscar Best Picture winner and summer blockbuster Oppenheimer — and an overall global debut of $131M. Nobody saw this coming, not even the studio, though some tracking orgs had a sense: Quorum, for one, projected a $50M U.S.-Canada opening six weeks in advance.

The problem is that tracking can never peg day-and-date releases. Projection services spotted a $50M stateside opening for Universal/Peacock’s day-and-date pic Halloween Ends, and the movie underdelivered with a $40M start. No doubt, day-and-date siphons box office, but Five Night’s at Freddy’s is the exception that proved the rule, and an anomaly which may never be repeated. Deadline hears that those close to the movie did beseech Universal to make this movie purely theatrical, and instead make The Exorcist: The Believer day-and-date on Peacock, but the studio held firm knowing they could win both in cinemas and on the OTT service, where Five Nights was the most watched title ever on the streamer.

Five Nights at Freddy‘s, which follows a security guard locked in a Chuck E. Cheese-like pizza video game parlor where the animatronic animal figures awaken in the middle night in a murderous rampage, was originally set at Warner Bros with Roy Lee, David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith producing and Gil Kenan directing and co-writing. The film based on the Scott Cawthon game never got off the ground, and when the option came up in 2017, Jason Blum swooped in. Anytime Blum tweeted about the project, which began in February 2018 with Harry Potter filmmaker Chris Columbus attached (he eventually stepped away, and Emma Tammi stepped in to helm), fans would go nuts.

As such, when it came to putting marketing material out there, it was important for Universal to get it right in the authenticity, down to the eyeliner used by the animatronic animal characters Foxy, Bonnie, Freddy, Cupcake and Chica from the game — finite details only a Freddy’s fan would care about. Heck, how often have you seen a video game’s creator, in this case Cawthon, double as the big-screen version’s scribe? To the faithful, that was a gospel move by a major studio. Overall, social media universe reach per RelishMix was near a half-billion, 2.3x over horror franchise comps before opening.



Despite the success of theatrical day-and-date here, money was left on the table — this despite the fact that 23% of moviegoers who watched Freddy‘s in cinemas over opening weekend had Peacock, according to Comscore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak. Take into consideration that the movie didn’t have Imax over opening weekend; industry sources tell us there was $5M-$10M potentially missing from that. The movie’s initial $25M in domestic advance ticket sales indicated a $100M opening. However, the tradeoff here for Uni remained an uptick in Peacock subs. As for the financials, the $100M in TV and streaming includes what Uni paid itself to put the film on Peacock. Talent was paid bonuses upfront, but there was also a provision in their contracts that if the movie overperformed, there would be some lagniappe (evident in $25M participations). Net profit after everything is an excellent $161M.

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