Sunday, October 26, 2008

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: SAW Gets Schooled - Musical Style!

For years now, it wouldn’t be Halloween if it wasn’t SAW to begin with. The consistent Lionsgate moneymaker would come out on or around Halloween, rake in the quick dough and get out before Thanksgiving came creeping. They’ve always opened at number one and have somehow managed to hold on to their core audience each year despite each installment being less interesting than the last. There was some concern the franchise was losing its edge on the market but no one would have guessed last year, it would be outdone by a bunch of squeaky clean teens singing and dancing it up at the prom.

After the record breaking cable success and subsequent soundtrack success of the first two HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL installments, Disney got the bright idea to launch the latest in the series in theatres. Clearly, there was money to be made exploiting these attractive young people and their limited singing and dancing talents. And money they did make. HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR opened to $42 million, the third biggest October opening in history, behind SCARY MOVIE 3 ($48 million) and SHARK TALE ($47 million). When the film opened to $14 million on Friday, it seemed as though the film would easily surpass these two hits but Friday accounted for 33% of the full weekend take while people expected the kid friendly pic to soar even higher on Saturday. Still, it was an impressive haul and it won’t be long before we start hearing about “Community College Musical”.

The SAW folks don’t have anything to cry about. With an estimated budget of just over $10 million, who cares if your $30 million take is slightly less than SAW 4’s opening weekend? This sequel continues to perform year on year but its legs get shorter and shorter in the long term, and not because they were hacked off. It also wouldn’t be Halloween it seems if it weren’t for TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. The film was re-issued yet again this year in 3D and in many cases with brand new digital projections. The film was also recently released on DVD though so this year’s ritual only mustered an average of $1,310 per screen for a total of $372K.

The Top 10’s only other debut was PRIDE & GLORY, starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell as boys in blue. The unoriginal premise wasn’t fooling anyone and the film played to a mediocre take of just over $6 million. Audiences were more interested in holdovers like BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA and EAGLE EYE, which saw their declines hold solidly.

The art house scene was all a bustle this weekend. Fall is like the art house’s summer. The most notable debut was Clint Eastwood’s CHANGELING, starring Angelina Jolie in a role that might finally nab her another Oscar nomination. Playing on a mere 15 screens, the film pulled in half a million dollars, for a stellar per screen average of over $33K. The next highest average of any film playing is a bit surprising. Adapted from the popular Logo series, NOAH’S ARC: JUMPING THE BROOM appealed to gay audiences desperate for fare. On just five screens across the nation, the film collected $32K per screen. Meanwhile, Charlie Kaufman’s first time at bat as a director, SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK, was unleashed on 9 screens worth of unsuspecting people, for an average of $19K. The film has been getting mixed reviews so the future is as unpredictable as well, a Charlie Kaufman film.

NEXT WEEK: ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. The title says it all folks and they do it on over 3000 screens. THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY will try to scare audiences away from SAW V. Guy Ritchie’s ROCKNROLLA has been struggling in limited release but hopes wider audiences will go for his supposed return to form. And Angelina and Clint go wide (from 15 to over 1800 screens) with CHANGELING.

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