Step aside Voorhees, we got another Jason killing it at the movies. After just a few years, starting with Paranormal Activity, producer Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions have changed the horror landscape with its brand of so-called ‘low budget, high concept’ releases, carving out a spectacular niche in a market that has seen the alleged demise of mid-budget movies and utter reliance on superhero flicks and blockbusters. Continuing this month’s focus on all things spooky, our gallery looks at 24 best and worst Blumhouse horror movies by Tomatometer (and don’t forget to read our Five Favorite Horror Films with the guy himself).
Just like its two predecessors, Paranormal Activity 4 opened at number one in its pre-Halloween launch but showed signs of audience erosion too. The weekend’s only other new wide release was the cop thriller Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry which did not impress and barely made the top five. Most holdovers enjoyed small declines as the overall marketplace remained healthy with the top ten films collecting over $100M in ticket sales for the fourth consecutive weekend.
Paramount took over the top spot with its horror sequel Paranormal Activity 4 which bowed to an estimated $30.2M including grosses from its first shows which started on Thursday night at 9pm. The R-rated franchise film debuted in 3,412 theaters including 286 IMAX venues and averaged a solid $8,851. The opening fell a steep 43% from the $52.6M of last year’s third part which broke the record for the biggest October debut. It was also down 26% from the $40.7M of Paranormal Activity 2 from the previous year. Fright franchises usually see fans disappear as they age, especially with a fourth chapter, so the new film was never expected to reach the heights of part 3. But it still shows that many fans who liked the home video scares of previous films did not find the new chapter worthy of seeing.
Studio research showed that the audience was split evenly between males and females while 60% were under 25. The CinemaScore grade was a C which was slightly worse than the C+ of its predecessor. For Paramount, Paranormal Activity 4 represented the studio’s first live-action film to open at number one since the horror pic The Devil Inside from the first weekend of this year.
Overseas results were better with some markets showing growth over previous installments. The new film grossed $26.5M from international markets this weekend making for a global debut of $56.7M led by the U.K., Russia, and Australia. With a low $5M production cost, the latest Activity will once again become a very profitable project despite the loss of interest from consumers. It would not be surprising to see more chapters.
Oscar hopeful Argo enjoyed a terrific hold in its second weekend dropping only 15% to an estimated $16.6M putting the Ben Affleck film at $43.2M after ten days. Warner Bros. may just go on to break the $100M mark if it continues to see legs like these. With glowing reviews, incredibly high exit scores from audiences, no new direct competition, an older-skewing audience, and plenty of Oscar talk, Argo managed to hold up remarkably well and will try to keep staying relevant in the weeks ahead.
The 3D toon Hotel Transylvania followed with an estimated $13.5M for a slim 22% decline and $119M total for Sony. Liam Neeson’s hit sequel Taken 2 joined the century club this weekend after grossing an estimated $13.4M in its third round, down 39%, for a $106M cume for Fox. It’s already the studio’s second highest-grossing live-action film of the year after Prometheus.
Anchoring his first film not based on his own material, Tyler Perry generated a lackluster debut for his detective thriller Alex Cross with an estimated $11.8M. The PG-13 film averaged a moderate $4,628 from 2,539 locations and failed to beat out the openings of the previous two films based on the same character which were released many years ago when ticket prices were much less. 1997’s Kiss the Girls bowed to $13.2M while 2001’s Along Came a Spider debuted to $16.7M. Both starred Morgan Freeman in the main role. Comparing admissions, Cross brought out roughly half as many people on opening weekend as Girls did.
Studio research showed that the Summit film played much like a Tyler Perry film. 60% of the audience was female, 68% was over 35, and 74% was African American. The CinemaScore grade was an encouraging A. But only a portion of his loyal audience came out as almost all of Perry’s previous films have opened bigger, and in fewer theaters.
The horror film Sinister fared well despite the arrival of the latest chapter from today’s most popular fright franchise. The Summit pic fell 50% to an estimated $9M for a solid $32M in ten days. Kevin James took seventh place with his latest offering, the PG-rated comedy Here Comes the Boom, which dropped 28% to an estimated $8.5M. Sony has collected a disappointing $23.2M after ten days. Universal’s a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect was next with an estimated $7M, down 25%, and a $45.8M sum.
Struggling to keep up, Disney’s Frankenweenie finished in ninth place with an estimated $4.4M falling by 37% to a total of only $28.3M. Rounding out the top ten was the sci-fi hit Looper with an estimated $4.2M in its fourth weekend. Sony has banked $57.8M to date.
The indie comedy The Sessions got off to a potent start platforming in New York and Los Angeles to an estimated $121,000 from only four sites for a sturdy $30,250 average. The sex surrogate pic starring Helen Hunt and William H. Macy scored sensational reviews across the board and is hoping to become a contender this winter during awards season. Fox Searchlight certainly got off to a great start and will expand on Friday to five additional markets including San Francisco, Toronto, and Chicago.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $118.6M which was up 13% from last year when Paranormal Activity 3 debuted at number one with $52.6M; and up a scant 1% from 2010 when Paranormal Activity 2 opened on top with $40.7M.
The first three Paranormal Activity films were able to wring a surprising amount of scares out of purported found footage from stationary cameras. However, all good things must come to an end, and critics say Paranormal Activity 4 finds the franchise repeating itself, offering some decent shocks but mostly recycling the elements that worked better before. Alex (Kathryn Newton) is a teenager who notices a strange new kid in the neighborhood. When the boy’s mother is hospitalized, he moves in with Alex’s family – and seems to bring a strange curse with him. The pundits say Paranormal Activity 4 is pretty creepy, but the sense of surprise is gone — it’s the first entry that feels formulaic.
Despite the middling critical response to Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, detective Alex Cross gets another shot at big screen glory. Unfortunately, critics say Alex Cross is a thoroughly generic action thriller, and Tyler Perry lacks the gravitas Morgan Freeman brought to the title role previous installments. Cross is a Detroit cop on the trail of the sadistic serial killer Picasso (Matthew Fox), whose targets are comprised of the city’s elite. Soon, however, the mystery becomes personal as the killer threatens Cross’ loved ones. The pundits say Alex Cross is plagued by underdeveloped characters, big gaps in logic, and an overabundance of clichés. (Check out this week’s Total recall, in which we count down co-star Jean Reno’s best-reviewed films.)
Also opening this week in limited release:
Brooklyn Castle, a documentary about an inner city public school that boasts the best junior high chess team in the country, is at 100 percent.
Question One, a doc about the battle over gay marriage in Maine, is at 100 percent.