Jigsaw’s twisted games return for another late-October round of torture fun with Saw IV which should allow the lucrative franchise to claim the biggest horror opening of the year for the second straight time. The R-rated gorefest follows last year’s Saw III which bowed to $33.6M this very weekend setting a new debut record for the series. Jigsaw’s death in that installment did not stop a fourth flick from being produced since the most popular horror movie villains never truly die anyway. Although III set a new opening weekend record for the Lionsgate series, it did not match Saw II‘s overall $87M gross and instead finished a bit behind with $80.2M. Still, with small budgets (Saw III was produced for $12M) this cash cow continues to churn out profits and shows no sign of stopping.
The audience for Saw IV is clearly defined and new fans are not likely to be generated. Competition will come primarily from last weekend’s number one opener 30 Days of Night which will suffer a sharp fall this weekend. Otherwise, there is not much to distract genre fans on the weekend before the pumpkin holiday. The marketing has been on par with previous films, but as the franchise ages it risks losing fans who may have had enough with three helpings already. Plus this year has seen a wide assortment of horror films crash and burn which has led to some fright fatigue. Another factor could be the World Series which last year only affected Saw III‘s Friday bow but this year will cut into both Saturday and Sunday business. Many young adults may opt for the torture that the Red Sox are inflicting on the Rockies instead. Saw IV opens on Friday in 3,183 locations and could take in about $29M over three days.
LAST YEAR: Like clockwork, Saw III came in and dominated the pre-Halloween box office with a franchise-best $33.6M debut grossing more than the rest of the top five combined. The Jigsaw pic eroded fast and ended up trailing Saw II‘s total tally and finished with $80.2M. Holding tight in second place was Martin Scorsese‘s crime saga The Departed with $9.8M in its fourth assignment and the lowest drop in the top ten. The magician drama The Prestige followed closely in third with $9.6M. The war drama Flags of Our Fathers ranked fourth with $6.3M while the animated hit Open Season placed fifth with $5.9M. Opening to dismal results outside the top ten was the Tim Robbins drama Catch A Fire with only $2M on its way to a horrible $4.3M. Platforming in only seven sites was the ensemble drama Babel which went on to gross $34.3M and win the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
With Halloween just around the corner, moviegoers rushed out to see the new horror sequel Saw III which enjoyed the biggest opening for the franchise and easily dominated the North American box office.
The weekend’s other new release, the political thriller Catch a Fire, fared worse and opened outside of the top ten. With little new competition for older adults or families, holdover films in the top ten playing to those two audience segments witnessed good holds and dropped by less than 40% each. Overall, the marketplace was about even with last year’s when the second Saw dominated the charts.
Saw III ripped into theaters and cut up an estimated $34.3M in ticket sales in its debut frame scoring the biggest opening for an R-rated film in nearly two and a half years. The brutal Jigsaw pic crushed the competition averaging a brutal $10,830 from 3,167 theaters and grossed more than the next four films combined. Lionsgate continued to grow its low budget October franchise. The first Saw opened this weekend in 2004 to $18.3M and reached $55.2M while its sequel bowed a year later to $31.7M on its way to $87M. Saw III, which was reportedly produced for only $12M, is already off to a stronger start with an opening that was 8% bloodier than its predecessor’s. The distrib also set new company records for both widest release and biggest opening weekend gross.
The latest installment of the Saw series got off to a potent start on Friday grossing $14.4M before tumbling 21% on Saturday to $11.4M. A Friday-to-Saturday drop is not uncommon for heavily-hyped horror sequels. Sunday sales are estimated to dip only 25% to $8.5M. No R pic has opened this well since Brad Pitt‘s epic Troy with $46.9M in May 2004. Based on the history of the franchise with Halloween providing a boost, but subsequent weekends dropping hard, the torture trilogy could boost its combined domestic tally to a stunning $230M. Combined production budgets amount to less than one-tenth of that figure. Lionsgate has no plans to shut down its cash machine and is developing Saw IV for a Halloween 2007 release.
For the third consecutive weekend, Martin Scorsese‘s mob hit The Departed was the nation’s second most popular film and grossed an estimated $9.8M. Dipping only 27% in its fourth frame, the Warner Bros. release has now made off with a sturdy $91.1M and looks headed for at least $125M domestically thanks to its terrific legs. The Departed is the studio’s second biggest film of 2006 after the $200M of the megabudgeted Superman Returns.
Falling from first to third place was the dueling magicians tale The Prestige with an estimated $9.6M, off a respectable 35%. After ten days, the Buena Vista release has collected $28.8M and seems headed towards the $50-55M range. In its sophomore frame, the Hugh Jackman–Christian Bale thriller still averaged a solid $4,220 per theater.
Clint Eastwood‘s war drama Flags of Our Fathers added more guns to its run with 314 additional theaters, but still slumped 38% in its second weekend to an estimated $6.4M. After ten days, the $90M Paramount release has taken in just $19.9M and did not hold up as well as previous films from the Oscar-winning director. In their second weekends of wide release, Mystic River dropped only 25% in October 2003 while Million Dollar Baby dipped just 31% in February 2005. Plus, neither film had a major expansion of screens. Flags saw its per-theater average fall 47% from last weekend to only $2,900. The World War II pic seems headed for a poor finish of around $40M. Overseas prospects also do not seem too bright as American military pics are not the most popular exports to come out of Hollywood.
Still the top-grossing movie for kids for the fifth straight weekend was Sony’s Open Season with an estimated $6.1M, down only 25%, for a robust $77.4M cume. Fox’s horse drama Flicka dropped a reasonable 35% in its second weekend to an estimated $5M as it faced no new competition for family audiences. With $14.1M in ten days, the PG-rated film could finish up with a respectable $26-28M and do better on DVD early next year. Universal’s Man of the Year dropped 32% to an estimated $4.7M giving the Robin Williams comedy $28.9M to date.
Sony rounded out the top ten with the final three flicks. The horror sequel The Grudge 2 scared up an estimated $3.3M, down 57%, to put its total at $36M after 17 days. The Kirsten Dunst period piece Marie Antoinette tumbled an alarming 47% in its second weekend grossing an estimated $2.9M. With a mere $9.8M in ten days, the Sofia Coppola pic should conclude with a disappointing $14-16M.
The studio also expanded its dysfunctional family comedy Running with Scissors from eight theaters in limited release last weekend to 586 locations nationally this weekend. Following its potent platform lauch, the Annette Bening film performed to moderate results nationwide with an estimated $2.6M for a mediocre $4,352 average. Cume to date stands at $2.9M for Scissors which was not well-liked by critics.
Focus Features’ apartheid thriller Catch a Fire opened to weak results in moderate national release bowing to an estimated $2M from 1,306 theaters for a mild $1,541 average. Directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger), the PG-13 film stars Tim Robbins and Derek Luke and earned mostly positive reviews. Fire tried to perform like the distributor’s Africa-set thriller from last fall, The Constant Gardener. That film also boasted good reviews, some starpower, and a similar number of theaters. But Gardener opened in early September over the Labor Day holiday frame with a three-day bow of $8.7M from 1,346 theaters for a solid $6,444 average. Its timing could have played a big part in the more successful debut since there are usually very few serious movies for adults at the end of summer. Fire opened at the end of a two-month period that followed a string of ten fall films aimed at older adult moviegoers.
An internationally-set film that did connect with moviegoers was the Brad Pitt–Cate Blanchett drama Babel which debuted in New York and Los Angeles in only seven theaters but grossed an estimated $366,000 for a colossal $52,258 average. The R-rated film was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros) and followed separate stories in Morocco, Mexico, and Japan which become interlinked. Reviews were very good and the film won the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Despite each of the seven locations playing the film on two or three screens, Babel still sold out numerous shows over the weekend. Paramount Vantage will expand the film on Friday into 13 new markets for a total of about 35 theaters and go national on November 10 into about 1,200 total playdates.
The Weinstein Company got off to a solid start with its political documentary Shut Up and Sing which took in an estimated $51,000 from four theaters for an impressive $12,750 average. The R-rated film follows the musical trio The Dixie Chicks and how their lives were affected by remarks against President George W. Bush. Reviews were very favorable.
Among notable holdovers in limited release, Miramax’s The Queen continued its slow but steady expansion widening again from 99 to 152 locations in its fifth session. The acclaimed Helen Mirren pic grossed an estimated $1.9M, averaging a strong $12,638, and lifted its cume to $6.3M. Parent company Disney saw its Halloween treat The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D hold in 168 special engagements and took in an estimated $1.8M. Down 45% from its debut, the Tim Burton animated pic has grossed $5.9M in ten days and averaged $10,815 for the frame.
A pair of October titles fell from the top ten this weekend. Fox’s The Marine dropped 48% to an estimated $2M in its third assignment and pushed its sum to $15.5M. Look for a weak $18-20M finish for the John Cena actioner. New Line saw its fright flick Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning tumble bringing its cume to $38M to date. The horror prequel will struggle to get to $40M giving it half of the $80.1M of 2003’s Chainsaw remake.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $84.6M which was up a scant 2% from last year when Saw II debuted at number one with $31.7M; but off 5% from 2004 when The Grudge remained in the top spot with $21.8M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Blood will flow and screams will be deafening at North American multiplexes this weekend when the horror sequel "Saw III" buzzes its way into theaters. While there will be no fight for the number one spot, the rest of the top ten will see new films and holdovers scrambling for high positions.
The political thriller "Catch a Fire" opens on Friday in moderate national release and the comedy "Running with Scissors" expands into major markets after an impressive debut in limited release last weekend. Meanwhile, star-driven pics "The Prestige" and "The Departed" will try to remain popular choices with adult moviegoers.
If it’s Halloween, it must be "Saw." That’s the tagline that Lionsgate hopes will keep horror fans coming back for a third helping of pain for the newest chapter in its highly profitable fright franchise, "Saw III." The R-rated film finds Jigsaw returning to terrorize another set of young people. Once again, the formula of no stars plus extreme brutality unleashing its fury on the weekend before the pumpkin holiday remains intact. Now a major player in the horror genre, Lionsgate opened its first "Saw" in 2004 to the tune of $18.3M and grew its audience over the following year, especially with DVD, to propel the sequel to a $31.7M bow. Over the last 15 months, no other R-rated film has opened better. Now, a marketplace without many exciting choices for the 17-30 age group will embrace a film, though familiar, that appeals to young adults.
This month has already seen a pair of horror franchise pics open weaker than their predecessors which bowed in mid-October of recent years. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" debuted to $18.5M, down 34% from the $28.1M of 2003’s "Massacre," and "The Grudge 2" launched with $20.8M, a steep 47% less than the Gellar original. But "Saw III" is in a different situation. "Beginning" was a prequel three years later with not much new to offer while "Grudge 2" was no longer a star vehicle. "Saw III" promises more of what its fans want – brutality, gore, and torture – so it stands on almost equal footing when compared to the last installment. The fan base has probably not grown much in the last twelve months and some might even drop out thinking it’s just the same offering yet again. But with competing fright flicks fading fast, "Saw III" will basically be the only horror film in town for those getting ready for Halloween. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, "Saw III" might cut up around $30M.
Tim Robbins plays an elite South African leader and Derek Luke stars as an oppressed everyman in the apartheid drama "Catch a Fire." Directed by Phillip Noyce ("Patriot Games, "Clear and Present Danger"), the PG-13 political thriller tells the true story of a man captured and tortured by his government, only to become a radical freedom fighter for his people. Focus is likely to attract an audience similar to the one it saw last fall with another African-set political pic, "The Constant Gardener." The Ralph Fiennes–Rachel Weisz film boasted a similar level of starpower and screens when it bowed to $8.7M over three days from 1,346 locations for a solid $6,444 average.
Reviews for "Fire" have been generally positive, but it will not be an easy sell at the box office. Robbins is the top star here and his track record selling tickets is spotty when it comes to films where he is the solo anchor. Plus the marketplace is filled with pictures targeting mature adults like "The Departed," "The Prestige," and "Flags of Our Fathers" so a crowded field will make it tough for "Fire." Using the ‘based on a true story’ angle in the marketing is always a helpful thing and Focus will soon see how much mileage it can get from it. Attacking 1,305 locations, "Catch a Fire" might capture about $6M over the Friday-to-Sunday session.
Annette Bening‘s dysfunctional family pic "Running with Scissors" enjoyed a strong platform debut last weekend with a scorching $28,263 average from only six sites. This Friday, Sony hopes to build on its bow by expanding the R-rated film into 586 theaters across North America. Critics agree that "Scissors" is not the next "Little Miss Sunshine." Reviews have been unflattering which will limit the commercial potential of a film that will mostly play to upscale adult audiences. A weekend take of around $3M could result diluting the per-theater average down to the neighborhood of $5,000.
Arthouses continue to get more crowded with fall films hoping for critical buzz and possible awards attention. Paramount Vantage packs the most starpower with its Brad Pitt–Cate Blanchett drama "Babel" which took home Best Director honors at Cannes this year for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Amores Perros," "21 Grams"). The R-rated tale trots across the globe from Morocco to Mexico to Japan with four interweaving stories about people from around the world who have no idea how connected their lives are. "Babel" opens in just six locations in New York and Los Angeles, most of them major multiplexes, and expands nationally in November. Reviews have been solid.
With Election Day around the corner, President George W. Bush stars in two documentaries that will try to stir up some controversy in order to get audiences running to their local theater. Newmarket Films releases "Death of a President," a docudrama about the fictional assassination of Bush in October 2007 and its aftermath. The R-rated whodunit was one of the hottest films at the Toronto Film Festival last month and hopes to capitalize on its buzz when it invades over 100 theaters this Friday. Also trying to wage a Red State vs. Blue State rivalry is "Shut Up & Sing" which examines the hardships that The Dixie Chicks faced recording their new album after their public outcry against the current Commander-in-Chief. The Weinstein Company opens the film in New York and Los Angeles on Friday before expanding to much of the country on November 10.
Among holdovers, the period thriller "The Prestige" and the mob drama "The Departed" should remain popular contenders in the top five. "Saw III" should not detract from either pic too much and the frame’s other new films will not play wide enough to offer significant competition in the rankings. "Prestige" swiped the top spot last weekend and is well-liked by moviegoers. A 40% drop would give Buena Vista about $9M and a ten-day total of $28M. "The Departed" has been holding up superbly so another 30% dip would leave Warner Bros. with around $9.5M which could be good enough for a third consecutive weekend at number two. The cume would rise to $90M.
LAST YEAR: Doing what its predecessor couldn’t do, "Saw II" opened triumphantly at number one and grossed a sturdy $31.7M for Lionsgate on its way to $87M continuing its most popular horror franchise. Sony countered with its family friendly adventure sequel "The Legend of Zorro" which debuted in second place with a decent $16.3M. The pricey Antonio Banderas–Catherine Zeta-Jones pic went on to reach just $45.4M domestically. Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman quietly bowed in third with the comedy "Prime" which opened to $6.2M from less than 2,000 theaters. Universal found its way to a $22.8M final. The horse flick "Dreamer" held up well in its second jump taking in $6.1M while fellow kidpic "Wallace & Gromit" rounded out the top five with $4.3M in its fourth weekend. The fourth new wide release of the frame, Nicolas Cage‘s "The Weather Man," got rained out collecting a mere $4.2M leading to a wimpy $12.5M finish.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
This week at the movies, we’ve got the return of Jigsaw ("Saw III," starring Tobin Bell), a tale of rebellion in apartheid-era South Africa ("Catch a Fire," starring Derek Luke and Tim Robbins), and a story of family dysfunction in the 1970s ("Running with Scissors," starring Annette Bening, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Alec Baldwin). What do the critics have to say?
The sheer awfulness of South Africa’s apartheid system has been grist for Hollywood’s mill in recent years, but Phillip Noyce’s "Catch a Fire" may be one of the subgenre’s strongest entries to date. "Fire" tells the true story of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), a dedicated family man falsely accused of terrorism who in turn becomes a radical rebel fighter against the apartheid government. Critics say the film works as both a political thriller and as a potent history lesson, and it features a particularly strong performance from Luke. At 77 percent on the Tomatometer, you may want to "Catch" this one. (Check out RT editor Jen Yamato’s review from the Toronto Film Fest here.)
Augusten Burroughs’ memoir "Running with Scissors" struck a nerve as a bizarre depiction of dysfunctional families and a culture of therapy among the privileged. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the movie adaptation will do the same. The film is a coming-of-age story about a young man whose unstable mother sends him to live with her therapist’s family, at which point his life only gets weirder. The critics say the film features some sharp performances — particularly by Annette Bening — but also note the film is too awash with mannered eccentricity and cartoonish caricatures rather than fully developed characters. At 33 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s "Running" on fumes.
They say the first cut is the deepest. And if the fact that it hasn’t been screened for critics is any indication, it appears that in the case of "Saw III," the blade’s gotten pretty dull. So kids, it’s time to bust out the old crystal balls and play Guess the Tomatometer!
Also in theaters this week in limited release: "Cocaine Cowboys," a documentary about drug smuggling in Miami in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is at 100 percent; "Exit: The Right to Die," a documentary about assisted suicide, is at 86 percent; "Shut Up & Sing," a rockumentary about the Dixie Chicks, is at 83 percent; "Babel," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s globetrotting film about despair and interconnectivity, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, is at 72 percent; "The Wild Blue Yonder: A Science Fiction Fantasy," Werner Herzog‘s latest epic journey, is at 70 percent; "The Bridge," a doc about suicides on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, is at 63 percent; "Climates," an atmospheric Turkish import about the decline of a relationship, is at 46 percent; and "Death of a President," the incendiary mockumentary about a plot against George W. Bush, bombed with the critics, as it’s at 33 percent.
We saw some great movies, some of them big ("Babel") and some tiny ("The Patterns Trilogy"). We saw some interesting failures ("The Banquet") and some outright bombs ("All The King’s Men"). We caught glimpses of big stars (Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, and Sean Penn, among others) and important directors (Brian De Palma, Paul Verhoeven, Darren Aronofsky, and John Waters). (Check the photo gallery for more.)
It’s been eight days since we returned from the Toronto International Film Festival, but the films we saw are still fresh in our minds. North America’s biggest film fest definitely lived up to its reputation, and we thought we’d cap our coverage with the movies that kept us talking.
Here are the movies that struck a chord with us, both positively and negatively. (Click on the highlighted quotes for full reviews.)
Senh’s Top Five:
1. "Still Life" – Set around the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam in China, this is the most beautiful film I’ve seen this year. It’s also realistically acted and filmed and charmingly edited.
2. "Exiled" – Johnny To‘s film about a group of hitmen is well written, hip, cool, and just plain fun.
3. "Election" – Thrills with efficient plotting and pacing. One of the better Triad films in recent years from Hong Kong. It’s also directed by Johnny To. I’m a fan now.
4. "Pan’s Labyrinth" – I’ve never seen a more gory film starring a kid. The character designs are very unique.
5. "The Fall" – Tarsem‘s ("The Cell") film has narrative problems, but it probably has the most realistic and best acting by a little girl (Catinca Untaru) ever.
Senh’s Least Favorite:
1. "Dong" – This is a companion piece to Jia Zhang-Ke‘s "Still Life," but it’s probably the most boring and pointless documentary I’ve ever seen.
2. "Election 2" – What the original would have been if everything went wrong. I’m still a fan of Johnny To, but let’s hope he doesn’t make "Exiled 2."
3. "The Fountain" – Don’t listen to Tim.
Jen’s Top 5 From Toronto (overall somewhat disappointing):
1. "Deliver Us From Evil:" Gripping, emotional and devastating; a documentary on clergy abuse, with intimate access to victims and the offender himself.
2. "The Patterns Trilogy:" It’s visually rich, impeccably cute, and wholly mesmerizing. Jamie Travis’ stop motion-musical duet-pop meditation on obsessive love is surreal and stylish and wonderful.
3. "Catch A Fire:" Derek Luke is amazing, Tim Robbins is a little less psycho than he was in "War of the Worlds"…overall a great anti-Apartheid, anti-government paranoia story.
4. "The Dog Problem:" Scott Caan’s second directorial effort is a comic gem about social estrangement and loneliness and pets.
5. "This Filthy World:" Any John Waters fan must see this feature-length stand-up style show, if not for his hilarious anectodes, then for his insights into sex, politics, and filmmaking.
"Bobby" — A monumental divide between my hopes and the (admittedly unfinished) product, excepting the last 10 minutes. But you can’t fix too many thinly drawn characters and virtually no attempt at period detail in post.
"For Your Consideration" — Considering the cast and their past films, this should have/could have been so much better. The Fred Willard–Jane Lynch infotainment send-up is by far the best part, most everything else is composed of easy insider jokes.
Best Toronto Film Festival Party — The "Shortbus" Queer Lounge 11pm-4am live music extravaganza!! Burlesque dancers? Great. Awesome bands like Kids on TV and The Hidden Cameras? Great. JCM singing "Hedwig" songs? Priceless.
Tim’s Top Five:
1. "Babel:" A work of remarkable craft, a masterpiece of sensorial and emotional intensity.
2. "Pan’s Labyrinth:" This awe-inspiring mix of fantasy, horror and drama achieves something rare: it’s equally resonant visually and emotionally.
3. "Rescue Dawn:" A thrilling movie, an old-fashioned tale of survival that may be the closest Werner Herzog has come to fashioning his obsession with the struggle between man and nature into a mainstream film.
4. "Little Children:" An adult film in the best sense; it creates three-dimensional characters, sets them loose to do what they will, and trusts that we will understand.
5. "The Page Turner:" A remarkable tale of shattered dreams and revenge, this French thriller in a minor key is tense and absorbing all the way through.
A movie that I really wanted to like but just couldn’t: "Bobby"
Best Avant Garde/Black Comedy/Romance/Musical/Short: "The Patterns Trilogy"
We’d like to extend greetings to some of the folks with whom we partied, conversed, and screened films: James Berardinelli, Erik Childress, James Rocchi, Kim Voynar, Scott Weinberg, and Paul Zimmerman. We’d also like to extend props to the many critics and bloggers we met in Toronto: Erica Abeel, Peter Debruge, Robert Denerstein, Michael Dwyer, Greg Elwood, Martha Fischer, Phoebe Flowers, Jonathan Hickman, Stephen Holt, Peter Howell, Geoff Pevere, David Poland, Alexia Prichard, Rene Rodriguez, Anne Thompson, Lawrence Toppman, and Sameer Vasta. We’d also like to acknowlge some of the filmmakers we met, including "Stormbreaker" writer Anthony Horowitz and the film’s star Alex Pettyfer (Check out Jen’s interview), Malcolm Ingram, Ash Christian, and Michael Tucker.