After a few weeks of 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' domination, the box office is looking for its next success story — and it might just find that in 'Scream.'
The cult favorite slasher thriller is back for a fifth round on Friday as a theatrical-only release. The film is largely expected to lag behind 'Spider-Man' over the long MLK holiday, but is hoping to earn $25 million-plus at the U.S. box office. Even with Omicron-driven COVID-19 infections jumping, some analysts predict it could go even higher, especially with relatively strong initial reviews.
Featuring the original cast and some new faces, 'Scream' will rely on past nostalgia to round up audience members. The first film, which debuted over 25 years ago in 1996, earned $103 million domestically.
The subsequent releases have tapered off, with 'Scream 2' (1997) earning $101 million, 'Scream 3' (2000) pulling in $89 million and 'Scream 4' (2011) topping out at just $38 million.
Following the movie's theatrical run, it will be available to stream on Paramount+ — a model that many studios have adapted this year.
IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond told Yahoo Finance that he doesn't expect COVID-19 disruptions to "cause a big negative for the year." Instead, he insisted a big risk for 2022 is studios' lack of faith in the theatrical release model.
"During 2021, [studios] took a lot of movies and put them on day-and-date streaming and as a result of that they didn't have good box office performance," the CEO explained.
Gelfond added that, even on the streaming side, the numbers showed that "people didn't sign up for streamers for movies...the model of selling simultaneous streaming didn't work."
Still, the metrics of comparing a streaming view to a movie ticket are puzzling to experts, and it's been difficult to measure success in this hybrid environment.
"We don't have very much insight into streaming numbers and, even what we do see, it's not remotely comparable. So in terms of how these movies are profiting or not profiting, the water is very muddy right there," Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, previously told Yahoo Finance.
The analyst added that it's tough to pinpoint the impact that a simultaneous streaming release has on box office figures.
Streaming and 'specialized movies'
Last year, hybrid releases like "Dune" and "Godzilla vs. Kong" performed quite well in theaters, whereas "The Matrix Resurrections" disappointed. Robbins said this suggests that the film might have suffered from other variables outside of its availability on HBO Max (T) — like fan reception following poorly reviewed sequels, or the Omicron variant.
At the moment, the majority of this year's films have an exclusive, 45-day theatrical window with big titles on deck. These include "Top Gun: Maverick," "Thor: Love and Thunder," "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," and "Mission: Impossible 7."
IMAX's Gelfond called it "one of the best slates" he's ever seen.
"The big budget blockbuster movies are going to be theatrical exclusives for a while," he added.
Box office experts agree, arguing that more art house films and non-blockbuster genres like indies, dramas and musicals may go direct to streaming due to shifting audience demand at the box office.
"The more mature audience that gravitates to those kind of specialized movies have been more reticent to go back to the movie theater," Comscore's Paul Dergarabedian recently told Yahoo Finance.
In the near term, "we're going to be living in a world where you have mainly the big blockbusters, franchise films, and superhero films being the bread and butter for the industry," he added.
"Spider-Man: No Way Home" is the perfect example of what films work within this pandemic-driven environment. The superhero flick — which crushed box office estimates and delivered the strongest opening weekend numbers of 2021 — has amassed over half a billion in domestic sales, with some analysts predicting a final domestic haul of $750 million.
According to Sony, the vast majority of the film's moviegoers were under the age of 34.
"That's going to be the driver of the business...especially during the pandemic. Theaters and studios are really reliant on that crowd showing up, and they've shown an eagerness to do so with movies like ['Spider-Man']," Robbins added.
Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193