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Halloween Fails to Shock at Box Office

October 31st, 2006

The final weekend before Halloween was as predictable as they come with every film in the top five finishing within a rounding error of expectations. Even the weekly and year to date comparisons were dull -- down 2% week-to-week but up 2% from the same weekend last year -- hardly noteworthy changes. But I guess no surprises are better than bad surprises.

Leading the field was Saw III with $33.6 million over its first three days, which is less than $2 million more than Saw II opened with last year. However, this installment earned the weakest reviews of the three films and a very steep Friday to Saturday decline suggests short, short legs. On the other hand, tomorrow is Halloween and it could see strong numbers for a Tuesday. Overall I see it coming in at $85 million, which is a little lower than original expectations but more than enough to keep Lionsgate happy.

As expected, The Departed remained in second place with a slightly better than expected $9.8 million. With $91.1 million after four weeks of release, the film should hit $100 million by this time next weekend while every week it spends in the top ten improves its chances at earning Oscar glory. Right now, if you only count films that have already opened, The Departed is the clear favorite for Best Picture with Babel and Flags of Our Fathers battling for a distant second place. But from now until New Year there's practically a new contender coming out every single week.

Falling from first to third was The Prestige, however its 35% drop-off was the best of the sophomore class and its $9.6 million was better than Thursday's predictions. With $28.8 million already in the bank, the film is well on its way to overtaking fellow stage magician film, The Illusionist, and should finish with just north of $40 million.

Flags of Our Fathers is the only film in the top five to miss expectations. However, with $6.3 million it was close enough to be called a victory. At least a victory for me. Its 38% drop-off was a little high compared to Clint Eastwood's previous two films (going by the first week they played wide, not their opening weekend). Arguably this is the biggest disappointment of the fall, but that's the curse of high expectations.

After a month of release, Open Season has pulled in $77.1 million at the box office, including $5.9 million this past weekend. The film became the biggest hit of September on Friday but with direct competition this weekend, it will likely quickly disappear from the charts.

Finally we have Catch A Fire, the only film to miss expectations by any serious degree. This Oscar bait film earned reasonably strong reviews but still failed to crack the top 10 with just $2.0 million in 1,306 screens. Its per theatre average is too low to support an expansion. In fact, it could lose several hundreds theaters as soon as the exhibitors are able to do so. As for its Oscar chances, those are all but dead.

Moving onto the sophomore class, there were just the two films to deal with. Flicka finished second with $4.7 million, which was down roughly 39%. However, with a per theater average of just $1,643 it will likely see a huge drop-off in its theater count this weekend. Next up was Marie-Antoinette. That film saw the worst week-to-week drop-off of any sophomore film this weekend, down 47% to $2.8 million, while its $9.8 million running tally is well below expectations.


Filed under: The Departed, Open Season, Saw III, The Prestige, Flags of Our Fathers, Flicka, Marie Antoinette, Catch a Fire