The original Happy Death Day opened on October 13, 2017 to a robust $26 million. Critics largely dug the “Groundhogs Day meets Slasher/Horror” genre mix, and Jessica Rothe sold the insanity of having to live your final day over and over until you broke the loop. A sequel made all the sense in the world, and yet, the incredibly clever Happy Death Day 2U opened to a lackluster $9 million in estimated ticket sales over the weekend. While not a disaster – because Blumhouse kept the reported budget at $9 million for the sequel – that opening number still begs the question, “Why the hell did y’all snooze on Happy Death Day 2U?”
Most sequels outperform their predecessors at the box office, as the studio no longer has to educate the audience on what to expect. Happy Death Day 2U brought its entire cast back, so fans of the original should have been curious as to where the story was going to go after the initial thriller.
We’re going to get into spoilers for the rest of this article, so punch out of this if you haven’t yet seen Happy Death Day 2U – which is a LOT of you – and go see that sequel!
The marketing for Happy Death Day 2U might have hurt the film’s chances of luring an audience, but with good reason. The trailers and commercials made it seem like a rehash of the first film, with Jessica Rothe’s character, Tree, waking up to relive her birthday again. And again.
But that’s because the ads for Happy Death Day 2U hid a major plot point of the sequel, and something that set it apart. While there are slasher elements to this one, writer/director Christopher Landon took a sci-fi approach to try and explain the time loop, and I thought 2U was more clever than the original film. Different, by design, but more inventive and actually emotional.
Part of me wonders if the Valentine’s Weekend release date worked against Happy Death Day 2U? Putting the original in October, when mainstream audiences are looking for a scare, probably helped to propel the first movie to box office heights. February has proven to be a fertile month for movies to open, but this weekend, more theatergoers chose either Alita: Battle Angel or the date-night-friendly Isn’t It Romantic, both of which performed better at the box over opening weekend.
It’s very possible that positive word of mouth from the people who did see Happy Death Day 2U propels it in the weeks to come. Upcoming releases like How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and Fighting With My Family aren’t exactly competing for the horror crowd. I’ll continue to beat the drum for Happy Death Day 2U, mainly because I love the fact that it branched away from the roots of the original, while still finding ways to build on the central storyline. Not to mention the fact that Christopher Landon told us he has the idea for a third movie, and he promises it’s bonkers. But with this box-office opening, he might not get a chance to make it.
If you made it this far, and you are one of the ones who simply decided to skip Happy Death Day 2U over the weekend, head to the comments section and let us know why. We’re curious. And then bookmark our 2019 Movie Release Schedule, so you can stay up to date with everything else that is opening for the rest of the year.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.