The Quorum

Nothing Says Holidays Like…NOSFERATU? Did Focus Pick The Wrong Release Date?

Yesterday, we got a deliciously dark and moody trailer for NOSFERATU, which Focus Features currently has slated to open on Christmas Day. The holiday corridor can be enormously lucrative, but Christmas, as well as Thanksgiving, tend to be kinder to family films. These aren’t corridors that scream out for a gothic vampire film.

It begs the question, is December 25th the best date for NOSFERATU? First of all, we love a bold release strategy. We appreciate it when distribution executives zig when everyone else zags. Could it be that NOSFERATU on Christmas is so wrong that it’s right?

Let’s look at the historicals. The chart below lists all the R-rated films released between December 10th and December 31st over the past ten years. It includes only films that opened wide in at least 2,000 theaters. We’re including R-rated films as comps only because all of director Robert Eggers’ previous releases (THE WITCH, THE LIGHTHOUSE, THE NORTHMAN) were rated R. Judging by the trailer, NOSFERATU also looks like an R.

Given that the holiday season is marked by lower opening weekends and high multiples, this table charts total gross.

The top grossing film is THE MULE, which made $104M in 2018. It’s the only film to reach $100M over the past ten years. The vast majority failed to get to $50M.

These historicals don’t paint an encouraging picture. Focus, however, may be taking a long view. At The Quorum, we prefer using historicals that are at most ten years old. But if you go further back, there are several R-rated films that performed well during the holiday season.

In 2013, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET earned $117M. A year earlier, DJANGO UNCHAINED made it to $163M. In 2011, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, a film that feels tonally similar to NOSFERATU, grossed $103M. Several R-rated films also platformed wide during the holidays. BLACK SWAN (2010) and AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) both expanded wide in late December and grossed over $100M.

So, yes, there is precedent for R-rated films doing well during the Christmas season. It just hasn’t happened lately. NOSFERATU may not seem like a typical holiday fare. And the odds may be stacked against it breaking out, but we appreciate Focus taking a big swing.

As for how the film is tracking, NOSFERATU was supposed to be updated today. But the movie was added to the tracking scheduled before the trailer dropped. We like to wait a few days before fielding a film after a trailer is release so that we capture the full impact of the material. People are still discovering the new trailer today, and many more will find it over the next few days. As a result, NOSFERATU will be updated on Monday. Check back then to see if the numbers move.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.