Even Horror Films Can't Survive the October of Terrors

It's been more than a month since we've seen the weekend box office numbers top last year's figures. This time around the overall box office was $97 million, which was down 2% from last weekend and 8% from the same weekend last year. So far this fall is behind lasts year's pace by more than 6%, 10% if you are using tickets sold and not dollars. Year to date, on the other hand, is still showing a 6% growth, and up more than $400 million on last year's pace. Even ticket sales are still up a strong 1.4%, so there's no reason to panic just yet, but the recent weakness is still a cause for concern.

As expected, 30 Days of Night was able to top the charts over the weekend. However, its 3-day box office of $15.95 million was below tracking. The film did earn good reviews, compared to the average for its genre, but with Saw IV opening on Friday, it is unlikely that the film will have strong legs. This is particularly bad for a film that reportedly cost $50 million to make.

Why Did I Get Married became the best hold during Tyler Perry's career so far, falling just 43% to $12.19 million. After ten days, it has pulled in $38.95 million and is looking to top $50 million at the box office, maybe even come close to $60 million. This is more than enough to show a profit by the film's initial push into the home market and there's little chance that we won't see another film by the director next year, the year after that, and the year after that... Even if one of his films flops, he's built up enough good will at LionsGate to survive.

Unbelievable. The Game Plan fell a mere 26% to $8.18 million over the weekend and now has $69.21 million. It is already the biggest hit of September and should top any film released in October as well. In fact, the film has an outside chance of reaching $100 million during its run. However, to get there the studio might have to give it a bit of a push; for instance, they could help it expand during Thanksgiving weekend by offering a deal to theater owners. It will be interesting to see if they do follow that strategy.

A weaker than expected start and plenty of competition resulted in very few people thinking Michael Clayton would stick around the top five one more week. But here it is in fourth place with $6.68 million over the weekend for a total of $21.56 million. Given its small per theater average, it will likely start shedding theaters this coming weekend and even with amazing reviews, it will struggle to surpass original expectations.

The Comebacks reached the top five, barely. In fact, studio estimates had the film finishing in sixth place and while the actual numbers were weaker at just $5.55 million, it placed fifth. However, the film earned a sub-$2,000 per theater average and some of the worst reviews of the year and there's little chance it will have strong legs. In fact, this performance was so bad that studios might start rethinking any spoofs they have in the works.

Gone, Baby, Gone proved you need more than Oscar-worthy reviews to succeed at the box office. The film opened with just $5.50 million in 1,713 theaters for an average of just $3,211. There's really no way to pretend that's a good start and unless the film picks up nominations, it will quietly disappear. Even if it does pick up nominations, it will be too late for the film's theatrical run.

The lone bright spot for new releases was the re-release of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D. The film finished within a rounding error of fifth place with $5.33 million while its per theater average of $9,450 was the best in the top ten and among the best at the box office this weekend. By this time next weekend it will have crossed $10 million at the box office during this run and will give the 3-D version nearly $20 million. Additionally, there will be theater owners itching to book the film for next year meaning The Nightmare Before Christmas could eventually hit $100 million in total.

On the other hand, Rendition will be lucky to do much more than $10 million in total. The film opened in seventh place with just $4.06 million and also earned a sub-$2,000 per theater average. A sub-$2,000 per theater average means that it likely cost more for the studio to make and ship the physical print of the movie than their share of the box office. It is the Mendoza Line of box office numbers and regardless of the reviews, there's nearly no way to describe the film in positive terms.

So it is depressing to say there were two other wide releases that performed even worse. Things We Lost in the Fire landed in 15th place with $1.56 million in 1,142 theaters while Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour earned a mere $586,000 in 1,121 theaters. Using the opening box office numbers, it would have been a more sound financial decision to burn the master than to release these movies in more than 1,000 theaters each. There is almost no chance that these films will ever earn enough for the studios to recoup the costs.

On that down note, we turn to the sophomore class. We Own the Night fell 50% to $5.43 million over the weekend and $19.70 million in total. Elizabeth: The Golden Age had a similar hold, down 49% to $3.15 million over the weekend and $11.22 million in total. The Final Season evaporated down 80% to just $133,000 over the weekend and a mere $989,000 in total.

Finally, Seeker: The Dark is Rising set a new record for theater count drop-off by losing 2,338 theaters for its third weekend.

- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2007-10-22