This is purely inflation working its magic here, but the biggest horror movie opening has just happened. Horror is a curious genre – it never produces blockbusters, and the horror following mostly evolved through home video and then DVD, when a “scary movie” became the rental of choice for a particular type of consumer. This hasn’t stopped studios from trying to capitalize, but usually big horror films are anomalies, and rarely are they tentpoles, given that the non-hardcore audience are either seeing the film out of curiosity, or going along unwillingly (date night – romance!). As a result, when a film is truly scary or upsetting, some people react negatively.
“Paranormal Activity” seemed to be a title that was affected by this, as studio-generated word of mouth gave way to crowds expecting a bit more bloodlust or standard thrills. But it definitely played hard to its core, and so a sequel arrived. Who knew the audience was starved for horror? “Paranormal Activity 2” outperformed all expectations, providing Paramount with their second straight monster opening in as many weeks.
Because word-of-mouth is questionable for horror, it remains uncertain how frontloaded the film is. The last “Paranormal” slowly expanded, grossing $107 million with no weekend bigger than $21 mil. But the last horror film to open at this size, “Friday the 13th,” did $40 million in its opening session, then closed feebly at $65. For comparison’s sake, the “Saw” series, which “Paranormal” is directly competing with, has never logged an opening number bigger than $33 million, at which “Saw III” peaked in ’06. Nonetheless, like the first film, this was made for a buck’o’five (in studio dollars, not indie), so Paramount is sitting pretty.
In second, “Jackass 3D” is certainly playing. The drop wasn’t as pronounced as people expected, and like the others, this is an audience picture. Already the biggest of the series, this third installment should be comfortably over $100 million next weekend. The film easily outpaced “Red,” though the geriatric action thriller had a decent hold. Summit‘s investment, according to sources, was only $20 million, with overseas presales accounting for the budget, so it doesn’t exactly represent a breakout hit for Bruce Willis, but it keeps his name in circulation as an A-List star. So, Willis isn’t talking up “Die Hard 5: Die Harder Than The Last Time” and “Die Hard 6: Diest Hardest” without reason.
Eating into “Red”‘s business was “Hereafter,” another picture appealing to older audiences. Double edged sword, that: business was as brisk as expected for a stately film about mortality mostly set in Europe, and it was helped by Clint Eastwood‘s name, but not having the bang bang of “Red” may have hurt a potential opening for that fanbase. That said, is this a fanbase? Polls show “Hereafter” and “Red” playing best to over-30’s, but we’re sure a lot of that demographic enjoys seeing hot young things as well. Still, there’s a definite schism here, with “Paranormal” and “Jackass” low-fi youth pictures heavily reliant on viral promotion, and “Red and “Hereafter” playing strongly to the Early Bird crowd. God forbid you be a teenage fan of Clint Eastwood or a grandfather who loves watching Johnny Knoxville take a hammer to the balls. You’re a sphinx to the studios!
In a mini-culture war, it looks like “Secretariat” will jockey (no, not too proud to avoid horse jokes) with “The Social Network” as both show only minor audience losses. “Network” has bested the horse drama each weekend, but “Secretariat” continues to draw closer, though both showed a decline of less than 30% this weekend. Word of mouth must be strong in the heartland regarding “Secretariat,” which looked like an also-ran after an inert opening, but the picture is closing in on a respectable $40 million, with $60 still in play. It has a long way to outdraw “Network,” though – the critics’ favorite should hit $80 million by next weekend and remains a possible $100 million player. Inexplicably, “Life As We Know It” is also playing in the same neighborhood with 30% declines each weekend, though you should never underestimate movies seemingly built for indifferent mid-afternoon screenings.
The smallest audience loss went to “Legend of the Guardians,” which dropped less than 25% to cross $50 million. The film’s likely got one more weekend to get to $60, when “Megamind” arrives, but considering the opening, it held respectably. Not enough to save a number of jobs over at WB, but enough to bolster the international number, as the worldwide total will hit $100 shortly. “The Town” has hung around, as has “Easy A,” which was bolstered by an “SNL” appearance by star Emma Stone, though both should wrap up at $90 and $60 million respectively.
In indie theaters, “Waiting for Superman” is the biggest performer, though it’s not exactly blowing the doors off. Though a five week tally of $3.7 million isn’t anything to sneeze at, Paramount’s promotional efforts all throughout summer were for naught. “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger” more than doubled its screen-count to 402 screens, but with $1.8 million after five weeks, it’s clear even hardcore Woody Allen fans are taking for granted the fact there’s a new Allen offering annually. The best indie numbers were had by “Inside Job,” which scored $170k on 24 screens in week three for a total of $356k. Meanwhile, “Conviction” stretched its muscles, expanding to 55 theaters with a $300k three-day. Support your local indie theaters, folks.
1. Paranormal Activity 2: Electric Spookaloo (Paramount) – $41.5 million
2. Sir Jack Of Ass 3D (Paramount) – $21.6 million ($87 mil.)
3. Red (Summit) – $15 million ($44 mil.)
4. Hereafter (Warner Bros.) – $12 million ($12.3 mil.)
5. Revenge of the Nerds V: The Social Network (Sony) – $7.3 million ($73 mil.)
6. Horsey Movie (Disney) – $6.9 million ($37 mil.)
7. Life As We Know It (Warner Bros.) – $6.1 million ($38 mil.)
8. Legend of the Kardashians: The Owls Of Ga’Ho (Warner Bros.) – $3.2 million ($50 mil.)
9. The Town (Warner Bros.) – $2.7 million ($85 mil.)
10. Easy A (Sony) – $1.8 million ($55 mil.)