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Can Halloween Scare Up Some Business?

October 30th, 2008

It's Halloween tomorrow, and let me tell you something, Halloween sucks when you are on a diet. However, this year I get to share my pain, as the only thing worse than Halloween without Tootsie Rolls, is Halloween at the box office. With so many kids out trick or treating, they won't be heading to the movie theaters. Neither will their parents, or people who want to stay at home and hand out candy, or those who just want to avoid dealing with all of the pedestrian traffic. It is such a headache that the last time Halloween fell on a Friday, which was 2003, no movies opened wide that day. (Although Brother Bear expanded wide the next day.) This time around we have two movies opening wide (Zack and Miri Make a Porno and The Haunting of Molly Hartley) and two films are expanding wide (RocknRolla and Changeling). Perhaps these risky moves will pay off. However, there is almost no chance it will keep up with last year's pace, since this time last year was the beginning of November instead of the end of October.

High School Musical 3 opened with more than $40 million last weekend, which was a record for a musical. Combined with a younger target demographic, strong reviews, and a genre that tends to have long legs, and it should perform very well this weekend. However, there are some exigent circumstance here. First of all, the term Fanboy Effect applies here. Secondly, with Halloween falling on a Friday, this movie will essentially lose one day of the weekend. It could surprise and lose 40%, or less, and earn $25 million over the weekend. Or it could fall significantly more than 60% to less than $15 million. I think it will fall just a hair more than 50% this weekend, but it should still earn first place with just over $20 million.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is the latest from Kevin Smith, who has a major following. It also stars Seth Rogan, who got his start in a TV series by Judd Apatow, and who also has a major following. This weekend we get to see what a Venn diagram of the two Fandoms look like. I think it is very likely that the film will open faster than any previous Kevin Smith film, despite earning reviews that are good, but not great. To be fair, 62% positive is the third best Tomatometer reading for any wide release this month with just High School Musical 3 and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist topping it. There is a small chance that Zack and Miri Make a Porno could open with more than either of Kevin Smith's previous two films made in total and earn first place in the process. However, I think it is more likely that it will have to settle for second place with a still respectable $18 million over the weekend, while it could take home $50 million in total.

While Halloween is usually death at the box office, horror films should be the one exception to this rule. That said, there are some who think Saw V could fall more than 70% over the weekend. That would reduce the film's weekend haul from just over $30 million to just under $10 million. I don't see that happening, but there is some logic to it. For instance, the film has to deal with sequelitis, as well as the worst reviews of the franchise so far. The previous film fell more than 67%, and if this film does the same it would earn just under $10 million. However, a Halloween boost should give it $13 million over the weekend, but it will have an equally sharp drop-off next week.

Changeling will be competing for third place, but will likely fall just short with $10 million or so, which is roughly what fellow Clint Eastwood film Flags of Our Father opened with in 2006. On the one hand, Changeling is earning weaker reviews than that film did, but paradoxically, it is earning more Oscar buzz. Given the film's opening in limited release last weekend, it could do relatively well when it expands in to 1,850 theaters tomorrow. In this case, relatively well could mean as much as $12 million, but as little as $8 million. Splitting the difference gives us $10 million even, which is likely under-estimating its box office potential by a small margin.

The Haunting of Molly Hartley is a supernatural thriller about a young lady, the titular Molly Hartley played by Haley Bennett, who was attacked and nearly killed by her mother when she was young and scarred for life. But the reason for her mother's actions are even more dangerous to Molly. The film could be an effective thriller for those who want scares, but not the sadism of Saw V, but it is not being screened for critics, which is a rarely a good sign. It is opening in more than 2,600 theaters, and even a $5,000 theater average would give it a shot at at least third place. However, it is tracking at roughly half of that, maybe even less. Right now the biggest hit for Freestyle is An American Haunting, which managed $5.78 million in just 1,600 theaters. I think this film will at least match that number, with $7 million being the most likely scenario.

The final wide release of the week isn't wide, nor is it a new release. RocknRolla is expanding on Friday into just over 800 theaters, which is too low to be considered wide, but it could be enough to reach to the top ten. It will just need between $3 million and $4 million over the weekend to reach the top ten. In fact, if it hits $4 million, it could finish in sixth place. That said, even $2 million is not guaranteed, as Guy Ritchie's last two movies really struggled at the box office and failed to earn $1 million combined. I'm going with a prediction of between $2 and $3 million, which will leave it just outside the top ten and with a per theater average that doesn't suggest further expansion. However, with better reviews than most wide releases have earned this month, it should do better on the home market.

One final note with this week's contest, So Goes the Nation. Normally in the course of the regular predictions, I give my unofficial entry for the contest, but that is not the case here. So this week I thought I would take the time to publicly state my predictions for the presidential elections. However, before anyone takes my advice, a caveat. I predicted John McCain would be the first person to drop out of the Republican primaries, so don't take my advice too seriously.

That said, here's my prediction for Tuesday's presidential election...

  • Obama will win with 353 Electoral College votes to McCain's 185 Electoral College votes.
  • Obama will receive 66 million votes in total, roughly.
  • As a bonus, the Democrats will pick up 7 more Senate seats to lead the Republicans 56 to 42 with 2 Independents.
  • Finally, the Democrats will pick up 21 seats in the House of Representatives to lead the Republicans 256 to 182.

For an alternative view, Bruce has a prediction posted on his blog where he not only predicts who will win each state, but when the networks will call the result.


Filed under: High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Saw V, Changeling, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, RocknRolla