Box Office Guru Preview: Fans Choose Sides in Horror Showdown

The Final Destination, Halloween II to mix it up this weekend.

by | August 27, 2009 | Comments

In a move that studios rarely make these days, two films from the exact same genre open opposite each other on the same day targeting much of the same audience. The Weinstein Co., still riding high on the success of last weekend’s Inglourious Basterds, returns with Halloween II while Warner Bros. counters with another R-rated horror sequel with The Final Destination which differentiates itself by offering 3D chills and kills.

The distributors are hoping that the fright battle will bring out millions of horror fans who may even see both by the time Sunday night rolls around. Older teens and young adults are the core audiences for both pics and with R-rated holdovers Basterds and District 9 also doing well with many of the same ticket buyers, competition will be fierce. One thing’s for sure – this weekend will be the bloodiest of the summer in more ways than one.

Another group of nobody actors is tossed into the fourth and latest installment of the popular New Line horror series with The Final Destination. The franchise has littered this decade with solid, but not huge, grosses and the new pic adds 3D to the mix making it the second such fright flick this year after the January hit My Bloody Valentine which bowed to $21.2M. The cheating death series kicked off in March 2000 with the $10M bow of the first flick which displayed extraordinary legs for a terror pic finishing with $53.3M. Final Destination 2 opened better with $16M in January 2003 but ended lower with a $46.9M total. The third chapter reached new heights with a $19.2M launch in February 2006 and $54.1M final.

Working against Final is the fact that the franchise has gotten old and may not be as relevant as it used to be. Plus another horror sequel opens day and date and will steal away much of the target audience. However on the plus side, there is a built-in audience that may want yet another dose of the same thing. Just look at the theatrical longevity of the Saw pics, or the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises in the 1980s. The 3D element will add some interest and boost grosses with those higher ticket prices too. Leaping from the screens in over 3,000 locations, The Final Destination could scare up around $20M this weekend.

The Final Destination

Rob Zombie broke the Labor Day opening weekend record two years ago at the end of August with the four-day $30.6M debut of his reboot of Halloween. Dimension Films is back with the sequel which finds the director behind the camera again but distribution duties being handled in-house by The Weinstein Co. instead of MGM which released the last pic. Once again it is the Halloween brand name that will pull in fans. Zombie’s involvement created tremendous excitement the first time, but this time his presence means less. Now in its fourth decade, the Michael Myers series has always had its fan following so a wide age range could be in play here – long-time fans plus younger adults more accustomed to the latest reboot.

Competition from Destination and the other R-rated hits out now will be a major factor and should curtail the potential. Moviegoing becomes less of a priority at the end of August so the marketplace will only expand so much. But horror titles and male-skewing pics tend to do the best so while both new fright flicks have a shot at capturing the top spot, Halloween II may be the one that offers less in terms of new entertainment. Attacking over 3,000 theaters, the new Myers tale may take in about $19M.

Halloween II

Continuing his string of diverse films, Oscar winner Ang Lee gives audiences his latest work Taking Woodstock which tells the tale of a young man who helps make the monumental 1969 festival happen. The PG-13 film stars comedian Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, and Liev Schreiber and has attracted mixed reviews with many key critics expressing their disappointment. The less-than-stellar critical response will have a big impact on the box office on this type of film which really needs more support to convince moviegoers. The Focus release will tap into a small amount of business from the director’s fan following and older ticket buyers looking to relive their hippie days. Opening in about 1,300 theaters, Taking Woodstock may take in around $3M.

Taking Woodstock

Last weekend, Inglourious Basterds was expected to top the charts with a solid bow but went even higher with a stellar $38M debut. It was the tenth biggest opening ever for an R-rated summer film. Audience feedback is positive, but the incoming artillery from the pair of new horror flicks will cut into Tarantino’s core audience of young men. Midweek grosses have been solid with $4.7M on Monday and $4.2M on Tuesday, but they haven’t been as strong as those seen by District 9 a week earlier which launched with a slightly smaller opening weekend tally. The director’s previous best debut, 2004’s Kill Bill Vol. 2, tumbled by 59% in its sophomore frame and something similar, possibly smaller, could be in store. A 55% decline for Basterds would give the war saga about $17M for the weekend and a robust $71M in ten days. An invite to the $100M club is likely to be sent to The Weinstein Co.

The alien slumdogs of District 9 have been getting a warm reception from human ticket buyers. A 45% drop to $10M should occur giving Sony an impressive $90M thus far. The incoming R pics could allow G.I. Joe to be an alternative option for young boys. A 40% drop to $7M seems likely giving Paramount $132M to date.

Chick flicks The Time Traveler’s Wife and Julie & Julia should not face too much competition this weekend. A slim 25% dip for the well-liked Meryl Streep film would result in a $6.5M frame and $70M sum to date while a 45% drop for the poorly-received Rachel McAdams pic would leave a $5.5M session and $46.5M total.

LAST YEAR: For the third straight weekend, the action-comedy Tropic Thunder ruled the box office grossing $14.6M over the four-day Labor Day holiday frame which ended the summer movie season. Debuting in second was the Vin Diesel actioner Babylon A.D. which opened to just $11.5M across four days for Fox on its way to a weak $22.5M. The Dark Knight crashed through the half-bilion mark in third with $11.1M over the long weekend in its seventh round boosting the total to a jaw-dropping $504.8M. The House Bunny held up well placing fourth with $10.2M and was followed closely by Overture’s new political thriller Traitor which bowed to $10M over four days and $11.5M over six days from just over 2,000 theaters. A final tally of $23.5M resulted making it the top grosser among the weekend’s four new releases. Two new comedies to fail in their debuts were Lionsgate’s spoof pic Disaster Movie with $6.9M over the long weekend and MGM’s College with a measly $2.6M. Final grosses reached $14.2M and $4.7M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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