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Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton in 'Freaky'. Image Credit: AP

‘Freaky,’ a body-swap horror movie from Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, slashed its box office competition, debuting to $3.7 million (Dh13.6 million) over the weekend.

In the coronavirus era, when nearly every movie scheduled for theatrical release has been postponed, those ticket sales were easily enough to nab first place on US charts. The film played on 2,472 screens in North America. Overseas, ‘Freaky’ grossed $1.9 million from 20 international markets for a global haul of $5.6 million.

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Kathryn Newton.

‘Freaky’ stars Vince Vaughn as a savage serial killer and Kathryn Newton as an under-the-radar high school teen, who inadvertently switch bodies on Friday the 13th. Christopher Landon, who wrote ‘Disturbia,’ three ‘Paranormal Activity’ sequels and directed ‘Happy Death Day,’ directed the R-rated thriller. The movie, which received overwhelmingly positive reviews, cost $6 million to make.

“It’s going to be very profitable,” said analyst David A.

Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “With the pandemic surging and additional US theatres closing, this is a good opening.” Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution, said ‘Freaky’ should have a long life in theatres since it won’t have much competition. That’s been the case with many pandemic-era releases.

“It’ll have much longer legs than the horror genre might normally produce,” Orr said. He praised the studio’s collaboration Blumhouse, known for making thrillers with responsible budgets. “Christopher Landon has an amazing touch for these films,” Orr adds. “He can blend horror and comedy like no other.”

Compared to rival studios, Universal has been active in releasing movies during the pandemic, largely because of a deal it forged with AMC Theatres. Typically, movies play on the big screen for 75 to 90 days before they move to digital rental services. But under Universal and AMC’s new agreement, the studio can put new films on premium video on demand within 17 days of their theatrical debuts. In return, AMC, which is the biggest cinema chain in the world, promises not to boycott Universal’s movies and also gets a cut of the digital profits.

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Of course, Universal has kept to opening smaller and less financially risky titles given the unstable movie market and plans to save its biggest tentpoles — like ‘‘Fast and Furious’ sequel ‘F9’ and ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ — until moviegoing returns to a more significant degree and coronavirus cases are better under control. In any case, the recent crop of Universal movies provides movie theatre owners, many of whom are desperate for fresh product to offer, something new to populate their marquees.