Monday 6 June 2011

US Box Office - 23rd - 25th October 2009

1. Paranormal Activity - $22M - $62.5M
2. Saw VI - $14.8M - $14.8M
3. Where the Wild Things Are - $14.4M - $54M
4. Law Abiding Citizen - $12.7M - $40.3M
5. Couples Retreat - $11M - $78.2M
6. Astroboy - $7M - $7M
7. The Stepfather -  $6.5M - $20.3M
8. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant - $6.3M - $6.3M
9. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - $6.7M - $115M
10. Zombieland - $4.3M - $67.3M

In something of an upset, Paranormal Activity in its newly expanded guise has trounced Saw VI to the number one spot this weekend. All but the original film and the fifth film hit the top spo - worst still, the last four movies all opened to above $30M - even the first film, then an unknown quantity, opened to $18M (but not no.1 in the charts). But it's Paranormal Activity that'll be making the headlines, for the forth weekend in a row. Having debuted in 12 locations the film scored some of the best screen/taking averages in the history of box office. Minor expansions and major box office followed, with last weekend's $19M from just 760 locations being another near-record breaker.

Pushing their luck up against the latest Saw film, Paramount decided to finally expand the film wide this week (but still only 2000 locations compared to Saw's 3000), just as word of mouth is reaching its peak and it paid off handsomely. While it didn't translate to 'double the locations, double the revenue', it's still a significant return for the film that cost $15,000 to make. After this weekend expect anyone who wanted to see the film to have done so, and the future box office will reflect that, but with the rest of the world already screaming for its release, Paranormal Activity will become one of the most profitable films in box office history, along side Blair Witch Project, a film with which it has much in common.

As has been mentioned, this is the first time a Saw film hasn't debuted at the top spot but it will ultimately be of little concern to Lionsgate given the production costs have almost certainly already been covered by that opening take. While it might garner some headlines relating to the apparent death of the franchise, Paranormal Activity was no average film to lose out to, and Lionsgate have already committed to Saw VII in 3D for this time next October. The budget for Saw V was just $10M, a figure it covered more than three times over with its opening weekend take and there's a very good chance that Saw VI cost little more than that to produce. With a no-name cast in place and a strong following on DVD, this will become another profitable production for Lionsgate who can always rely on Tyler Perry and Jigsaw to bring in the money. It might not fall as hard next weekend - while most fans will have turned out for it this weekend there will still be a small number who chose Paranormal Activity over it and plan to give Saw VI a chance in the next frame.

Worryingly for Warner Bros, Where The Wild Things Are dropped a sharp 64% from last Friday to this one, giving the impression it was heavily front loaded. While it picked up somewhat over the rest of the weekend to finish down 55%, it's still probably a littler higher than WB would have liked. The film has so far covered just over half of its production budget, but it still has a long way to go. Showing signs of slowing at this early stage means it might top out at around $75-85M - still some way short of its $100M production budget, which it will look to the international market to cover. Word of mouth on the film is mixed, as were reviews, and with the film not playing to the younger family market, Where The Wild Things Are still has some tough weeks ahead. Thankfully, a single new release next weekend should give it a little breathing space.

Something of a surprise hit last weekend, Law Abiding Citizen drops an strong 39% in its second weekend on general release. Obviously the film lost some of its potential audience to Saw and Paranormal Activity but still managed to do decent business from the people who wanted a thriller without frights or too much blood. Citizen cost $50M to produce, a figure it might just about see before leaving the top ten but even if it is doesn't, it's opening weekend and second frame take will have been something of a relief to Overture Films who must have known the film wasn't tracking well prior to its release. Having recouped its production budget during Friday night, Couples Retreat can breathe a little easier after a higher than hoped second frame drop last weekend. The Vince Vaugn comedy is unlikely to see $100M but should still become a sizable hit once the international market gets hold of the film.

Astroboy has been a long time in production (starting in 2006) and there's been little hype on this one until quite recently. Reviews were above average but with the somewhat limited appeal of the character in the US, Astroboy has struggled to make much of a dent this weekend. Even a big name voice cast that included Samuel L Jackson, Nic Cage and Charlize Theron did little to help matters. While it has opened in sixth place, it's in part to do with lower takes for other films than having break out success. Expect the film to perform much better on the international market.

Many were surprise last weekend when The Stepfather managed to not only break into the top ten but also score a healthy $10M. This weekend the film drops 44% but manages to recoup its production budget of $20M. It'll enjoy at least one more weekend in the top ten before quickly heading to DVD. Expect a straight to DVD sequel to follow within 18 months.

Circque du Freak is based on a successful series of books but as we've seen before (The Seeker, The Spiderwicke Chronicles) that's not always a license to print money. Opening on a busy weekend with little fanfare, its $6.3M must surely be on the very low end of expectations. The problem may have been marketing - too frightening for a family film but not frightening enough for an older market - The Vampire's Assistant had little room to manoeuvre. Reviews weren't up to much (it sits at 35% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and there's every chance that only the hardcore fans of the book series got it into the top ten. Thanks again to just the one release next weekend, it will have another shot but this one is already by and large, dead in the water.

In a similar vein to Couples Retreat, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has recouped its production budget from only its domestic take and is awaiting release in almost all international markets, where the film should perform just as well. Being the only young-family friendly film in the top ten has helped Meatballs a great deal over the course of its release, with only the Toy Story double bill giving it any significant problems. Zombieland, with nothing left to prove after scoring some stunning reviews and recouping its production budget within a weekend, heads toward $70M in what may be its last weekend in the top ten. The international market now awaits the Woody Harrelson zombie comedy.

Opening in a somewhat limited release, Amelia, the Amelia Earheart biopic starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere made $4M.

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