What 'Scream VI' Producers Project X Believe Helped The Sequel Slay At The Box Office
If anyone still needed proof that the revival of the iconic Scream franchise was a great idea that audiences wanted, they should look at the sixth film's opening weekend box office.
Scream VI grossed $44.5 million between Thursday's previews and Sunday night, a new high for the franchise and almost $15 million more than the previous film's January 2022 debut. An opening weekend box office result like that is more important now than ever.
"In today's world, multiples are harder and harder to achieve at high levels, so the opening weekend is exponentially more important for any movie," mused William Sherak, co-CEO of Project X Entertainment, Scream and Scream VI's producers. "Back in the day, audiences had ten weeks to find a movie, and your multiple would stay high for longer periods. That window has got much shorter, so your opening weekend becomes much more important."
"It's interesting," added co-CEO Paul Neinstein, "I do think there is opportunity in that window shortening a little bit, and I think from just pure financial engineering standpoint, maybe some of the things that you're giving up by not having a very long exclusive window, you're going to see things over-performing in some of these other windows, which is kind of exciting."
Describing it as "a natural transition of the business," he added that the industry can be slow to embrace changes. "I think it's the nature of our business, but it's going to be exciting to watch that for filmmaking in general, not just Scream and what we're doing," he explained.
Sherak, Neinstein, and Project X's Chief Content Officer James Vanderbilt, who also co-wrote Scream VI and last year's Scream, knew they had to take big creative swings, which have paid off.
"I never expect anything, but it is wonderful to see people responding the way they are," he admitted. "We tried something different for the opening sequence, and whenever you take a big swing like that, you're nervous that it's not going to land. People saying such nice things about that part of the movie alone is exciting and encourages you to switch things up."
Sherak, one of the co-founders of the mini-major production company, added that the early responses made it even more exciting for them to go from theater to theater in LA on opening night to see audiences watching it. The trio had a carefully planned route traversing the city, allowing them to hit several locations.
"We do a lot of talking about windows and this and that and content, but at the end of the day, we're making movies for an audience," Vanderbilt explained. "These people want to spend two hours in a darkened theater, forget about their lives, and be entertained. When you start to hear those people are enjoying what you put your blood, sweat, and tears into, it is the most incredible validation."
The trio, industry veterans whose friendship and previous experiences working together led them to form Project X, firmly believe that Scream VI's innovative and extensive marketing campaign played a significant role in the film's success. It was a promotional plan that surpassed their own expectations.
"The other fun thing about this particular movie is the number of texts I've received with pictures of the marketing materials out there," Neinstein revealed. "It's what studios are good at. When those marketing and promotions groups have something they believe in, they're firing on all pistons, and that's fun to watch."
"I was talking to William earlier, and he said that it's been a while since they've been able to embrace movies in this way, but the theatrical market is returning."
"For people in my life who are outside the movie business to keep sending me pictures and messages like, 'Oh, my God, this is what I saw here,' is a really fun thing." What that means to Neinstein is that this movie resonates in a way that you hope it will but "you don't see in every campaign."
As part of the highly effective campaign, people were hired to dress up as Scream killer Ghostface and appear in the streets across US cities. Some instances even led to members of the public in Sonoma, California, calling 911.
Sonoma Police Department confirmed in a statement that on the morning of Monday, February 27, 2023, their dispatch center received "multiple calls for service regarding an individual standing at 1st St. E/E Napa St. wearing a Scream costume." It continued, "This individual has been contacted and was hired by a company through Paramount to promote the new Scream movie. Thank you for everyone's concern. It's been addressed."
But the campaign was more than stunts or tie-ins with brands for burger pop-ups and TV shows like Reno 911!, plus a live experience in Santa Monica with props from the movie. In London, England, the traditional New York yellow cabs popped up with Ghostface riding in the back.
"It started with the last movie with understanding how much fun the movie can be, combined with its box office success. This time the entire machine understood what this was," Sherak said, highlighting the uniqueness of the situation. "It's not often where the studio that's releasing the movie wasn't involved in the original franchise, so understanding the movie, and the franchise, was a learning experience for everybody."
"Paramount distributed Scream, and everyone got it; it was successful even though it happened during a pandemic, but the gloves came off with this one. This time we were all involved with it from day one."
He recalled the day, around ten weeks before Scream VI's theatrical release, when they reviewed the plan. "It was a meeting where you sit down around the 75-person conference room table, and they go slide by slide of everything they're going to do," the producer described. "We were like, 'Oh, wow. Not only did everybody get it, but they enjoyed the movie and were excited about it. They have a relationship with us this time. It was the whole thing working together, and you see it out there. They did an amazing job. I can't give him enough credit."
So, where do they go from here?
"I go the other way on that, which is that every time the opportunities show you other opportunities," Sherak stated. "These people are really good at what they do. I know for a fact that some of the stuff the guerilla marketing team on the ground learned on this one has been put in their back pocket in case we are lucky enough to get to do another Scream movie. Honestly, if they keep letting us make them, we'll make them. They're fun to do, and we have a blast."
Buoyed by the success of Scream and now Scream VI's performance, 2023 looks set to be a year of further growth for the company. A string of projects are due to be announced, and the action-thriller series The Night Agent will premiere on NetflixNFLX -2.2% on Thursday, March 23, 2023.
"As a company, we've shown that we're not bad people to work with, and we can get things done inside the system, and that's not easy," Neinstein added. "Because of that, more things come to you, the doors open, and people are like, 'Oh, right, you guys have been doing this for a very long time, not together as a group.' We are good at helping solve problems, which makes it easier because it's hard to get anything made."
"It proves we can do what we set out to do," added Sherak.
Vanderbilt concluded, "For me, the success of Project X validates those core concepts, and it's a way I want to make movies and shows. Bringing that familial ethos, the idea of problem-solving and giving a good experience to the people you're working with, and ensuring they have a good time doing it is key."
"It's hard enough to do any of this, so if you're miserable while doing it, that's the worst. What we're also starting to see is repeat business. People say, 'We'd like to do more with you because we've had such a good experience.' I'm also very proud of the quality of the things that we've done, whether they've been runaway successes or less than that. There's a level of creative quality of the stuff we're putting out and building on."
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