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Horror Likely to Be Seen the Most

October 22nd, 2009

It's the weekend before Halloween and among the three wide releases, there are two with a horror feel to them. (One is straight up horror while the other features Vampires.) Among the holdovers that should land in the top ten, there are three more horror or horror-like films, so there's a lot of competition for a rather narrow target audience. In comparison, last year there was only one such movie, and it didn't even come in first place. The level of competition will likely prevent the number one film this weekend from topping last year's number one film, High School Musical 3, but overall the box office should be a bit stronger this year.

First a short note: this is being published a little earlier than normal and I might come back later tonight after we have updated theater counts. It depends if any movies are playing in significantly more or less theaters.

If it's Halloween, it must be Saw. This is less an effective marketing technique than it is a resignation to a habit. Saw VI opens this week and most analysts expect it to perform in a similar fashion to Saw V, both with critics and at the box office, albeit it will likely be slightly weaker. The pattern for the past few films has been clear. The franchise peaked at the box office with Saw III while it peaked during its opening weekend with Saw IV. Saw V saw it slip further with the ignominious distinction of earning a multiplier below 2.00. If this trend continues, the film will likely open in first place with $28 million, but finish with under $50 million in total. This is still more than enough to show a profit, but if it misses expectations the studio might be a little more hesitant to green light more installments.

Paranormal Activity continues to expand at the box office and should officially become a wide release this week, which should help it remain more or less flat at the box office. There is a chance it will grow to earn more than $20 million over the next three days, but a tiny drop-off to $19 million is more likely. This would still give it close to $60 million in total and a clear path to $100 million in total, assuming it doesn't completely collapse after Halloween. If it beats expectations, then by the end of the weekend it will become the most profitable movie of all time, overtaking The Blair Witch Project.

Normally kids movies hold up very well during their second weekend of release. However, unfortunately for the studio, Where the Wild Things Are is playing more like a filmed aimed at adults rather than kids. I think the explanation is simple: the people most interested in seeing the movie are not those who are the right age to read the book it is based on now, but fans of Spike Jonze that read the book when they were kids. Because of this, it is likely that the film will fall close to 50%, if not more. A 50% drop-off would give it third place with just over $16 million for the weekend and $56 million after two. This is probably a pretty accurate prediction, but it could earn $18 million, or maybe a little more, which would boost its chances at $100 million considerably. It's still a bit of a longshot, but it is not out of the question.

Astro Boy is just confusing to me. The film is based on the popular Manga / Anime series from Japan, it is opening in an estimated 3,000 theaters and it is earning the best reviews of any of the four new releases on this week's list. That said, I've seen no ads for it on TV and the buzz is nearly non-existent. It could be in a battle for second place with $18 or $19 million. It could also miss the top five with less than $10 million. Hopefully it's the former, but I think it will end closer to the latter. Look for $13 million over the weekend and $40 million in total, which is what it cost to make, so Summit should end up happy. Additionally, it should prove to be a much hotter ticket internationally, and could make $100 million outside the United States.

Law Abiding Citizen beat all expectations last weekend and is currently in first place on the daily chart, so its pathetic reviews are not hurting it. On the other hand, the competition is intense this weekend and it is likely that Saw VI will siphon off quite a few moviegoers. It could siphon off enough to drop this film out of the top five with just under $10 million, but fifth place and just over $10 million is more likely.

Also aiming at just over $10 million is The Vampire's Assistant, but I'm not sure it will get there. It is opening in close to 3,000 theaters, but the buzz is quite weak, and the reviews are worse. The film is based on a popular series of novels by Darren Shan, but those who haven't read these books will probably dismiss the movie as Harry Potter meets Tim Burton. The film does look like it has a lot of style, but sadly that appears to be its only major selling point. Look for $10 million this weekend, and perhaps Halloween will give it a boost next weekend, but $30 million is likely as good as it will get for this film.

Finally we get to Amelia, a period piece BioPic starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank. It practically screams Oscar Bait. However, one look at the reviews and it is clear it is busted Oscar bait. (It could earn a couple of nominations for technical awards, like Costume Design or Sound Editing, for instance, but none of the prestige awards like Lead Actress or Directing.) Additionally, since it is only opening in 800 theaters, it might not even place in the top ten during its opening weekend. It would need just over $4 million to reach the top ten, which is likely out of reach. $3 million might be out of reach. Look for an opening somewhere in-between and a rather short stint in theaters.

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Filed under: Where the Wild Things Are, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, Saw VI, Paranormal Activity, Law Abiding Citizen, Astro Boy, Amelia