The First Omen Seeks To Bring The Horror Faithful To The Box Office

Richard Donner's "The Omen" is one of the most revered horror classics of all time. Now, Disney's 20th Century Studios is bridging the franchise back from the dead for a prequel in the form of "The First Omen." Horror has been on an incredible hot streak at the box office over the last couple of years, and Disney is the best in the business at milking franchises for all they're worth. So, will this R-rated franchise revival scare up enough to make it a hit when it opens next weekend?

Director Arkasha Stevenson's horror prequel is currently expected to pull in between $8 and $13 million on its opening weekend, per Box Office Pro. It will be opening directly against Dev Patel's action flick "Monkey Man," which has its sights set on a debut between $16 and $25 million. Both movies will also be contending with "Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire" on its second weekend, and the latest entry in the MonsterVerse is off to a very good start. But an R-rated horror movie should work well as counterprogramming in this case. It doesn't need to open at number one to find success.

The big question that lingers is how much Disney spent on this one. The Mouse House has been reasonably thrifty with recent horror efforts through 20th Century, with last year's "The Boogeyman" boasting a $35 million budget. The sci-fi/horror flick "No One Will Save You" was made for around $23 million. It feels safe to assume that the studio kept this one in a similar range. In which case, an opening north of $10 million would be a solid start.

It will also benefit from being the only straight-up horror game in town for a minute. The next studio horror movie hitting theaters is Universal's vampire tale "Abigail" on April 19. So "The First Omen" essentially gets two weeks free and clear as the mainstream horror offering of choice for moviegoers.

Can The First Omen keep horror's hot streak alive?

"The First Omen" centers on a young American woman who is sent to Rome to begin a life serving the church. Once there, she encounters a darkness that causes her to question her faith and uncovers a conspiracy that seeks to bring about the birth of evil incarnate. The cast includes Nell Tiger Free ("Servant"), Sonia Braga ("Shotgun Wedding"), Ralph Ineson ("The Northman"), and Bill Nighy ("Living").

While reviews haven't dropped as of this writing, social media buzz from advance screenings has been very positive. /News's own BJ Colangelo said that it is "loaded with some scorching imagery that has been haunting me since I left the theater" on Twitter. /News's Bill Bria, also taking to Twitter, said the film "captures a beautifully disturbing '70s horror vibe without ever feeling slavishly devoted to nostalgia or even its own franchise."

Speaking of this franchise, it has been lucrative over the years. Donner's original made more than $60 million in its day, a huge sum for the time, leading to a pair of successful sequels. 2006's "Omen" remake also did very well, pulling in $120 million worldwide against a $25 million budget. So history is on this movie's side. One of the only things working against it, perhaps, is the recent release of NEON's "Immaculate." Sydney Sweeney's hit horror film deals with similar subject matter and will have been out for several weeks by the time "The First Omen" arrives.

Horror has been arguably the most important genre of the pandemic era when it comes to getting the box office back on track. Yes, Hollywood was always going to get back to releasing crowd-pleasing blockbusters with regularity, but movies like "M3GAN," "The Black Phone," and Parker Finn's breakout hit "Smile" (among many others) have brought out audiences en masse to help fill in the gaps. As such, Disney is wise to continue to invest in theatrical horror. It's certainly more beneficial than sending movies such as this directly to streaming.

"The First Omen" hits theaters on April 5, 2024.