Supernatural Thriller ‘Winchester’ Wins Friday Box Office

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Winchester, starring Helen Mirren, debuted yesterday with a respectable $3.6 million in ticket sales. Super Bowl weekend is traditionally a downtime for movies, and this year is clearly no exception. In fact, Winchester is the only major new release this weekend. U.S. distributors CBS Films and Lionsgate apparently planned to take advantage of this slow weekend to try to land a hit with one of the few genres that traditionally fare well during the Super Bowl: horror.

Super Bowl Weekend and Horror Films: A Proven Combination

If Winchester stays on target, it should collect $9 million by Sunday night. Although this is a decent return on investment for a film that was picked up for only $3.5 million, it’s definitely not in the same class as horror films such as The Woman in Black, Carrie (2013) and Warm Bodies, all of which made at least $20 million during their Super Bowl weekend debuts.

Part of the decline in sales might be based on the casting of Helen Mirren, which naturally leads to marketing choices meant to attract her typical audience of older women. However, Lin Shaye has proven that casting an elderly woman in the main role of a horror movie can lead to huge box office success. The 74-year-old leads the enormously popular Insidious series, which has made $498.8 million over four movies.

Lin Shaye Insidious
Lin Shaye at Brazil Comic ConFeatured image credit: Raphael DiasGetty Images

Of course, the abysmal Rotten Tomatoes score of 9 percent and the Metacritic score of 31 may have more to do with the film’s decent, but uninspiring, box office performance thus far.

Winchester Inspired by True Events?

One thing horror fans know for certain is that when a movie says it’s been “inspired by true events,” they should take the word ‘true’ with a grain of salt. What is definitely true is that the Winchester Mystery House exists, and it was built under the direction of Sarah Winchester. The Winchester rifle fortune heiress hired a construction crew in 1886 to bring her vision to life. They worked around the clock until her death in 1922, which adds up to more than 315,000 hours of continual construction.

By the time Winchester passed away, the mansion was 24,000 square feet and had 160 rooms. Located in San Jose, California, this real-life mystery location has been a popular tourist attraction since 1923. People have even been allowed to stay the night in one of the home’s many rooms since 2015.

The big question is why did Winchester order such a grandiose project? This is something that has never been answered, but there are plenty of theories and rumors.

Winchester is based on one of the more salacious theories. If the rumors are correct, Sarah Winchester built the home in order to appease some angry ghosts who she believed were haunting her because they had died at the hands of a Winchester gun. Naturally, this is the angle that Winchester takes, although it’s unlikely we’ll ever know whether or not it’s actually true.