Box Office Preview: Nothing Abnormal This Weekend

This month seems to be going by really fast and it’s hard to believe we only have about 10 or 11 weeks left to the year, but if it’s October, it’s clearly time for a yearly tradition as the unlikely hit horror franchise gets a fourth installment with Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount).

The franchise began with filmmaker Oren Peli who brought his low-budget (reportedly $5,000) horror movie Paranormal Activity to Screamfest in October 2007 and then to the Slamdance Film Festival the following January, and Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks bought the rights to do a bigger budget remake. While Paramount and DreamWorks were parting ways, some genius (no sarcasm!) at the former got the idea to release Peli’s original movie theatrically, taking the unconventional approach of having people “Demand It” in their areas. This led to a limited release in September 2009 and word-of-mouth quickly got around so that it kept making more money as it expanded. By the time it got to 763 theaters, it was ready to explode and it did with a $19 million weekend, roughly $25,000 per theater, to take third place. The next week it expanded into over a thousand more theaters and it moved into first place, dethroning the previous Halloween horror champ Saw VI and the $5,000 movie went onto make over $107 million.

When Paranormal Activity 2 opened a year later, this time getting a wide release into 3,216 theaters, it opened huge with $40 million, becoming one of the biggest horror movies ever, though it only grossed $85 million total. Last year this weekend, Paranormal Activity 3 brought on new directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who had a hit at Sundance with the doc Catfish, and that opened even bigger with $52.5 million

Obviously, horror tends to do well in October, especially the closer we get to Halloween, but this year the movie has a bit of horror competition in last week’s Sinister, which may have decent word-of-mouth but probably will still drop since so many horror fans rushed out to see it. Like that movie, Paranormal Activity 4 is opening early on Thursday night at 9PM, which will be a big factor in getting the fans out early to see the movie as soon as possible, and we’ll have to see whether Paramount folds that into the Friday box office or keeps it separate. We think this one will open lighter, probably in the $45 to 48 million range with a good $22 million or more on Thursday and Friday. Considering how inexpensive it is to make these movies, it’s still going to be considered a success even if it ends up topping out around $90 million total.

Review

Also opening this weekend is Alex Cross (Summit Entertainment), the attempt to relaunch a movie franchise based on James Patterson’s popular FBI profiler, played by Tyler Perry, who follows in the footsteps of Morgan Freeman, who took on the role for 1997’s Kiss the Girls ($13.2 mil. opening, $60.5 total ) and returned for 2001’s Along Came a Spider ($16.7 mil. opening, $74 total). Clearly, Cross is a popular character who has sold millions of books making Patterson a very rich man, and this movie not specifically based on any of them co-stars Edward Burns, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols and even Cicely Tyson. The idea of reintroducing the character into films with Perry in the role brings hopes of getting the massive audiences that normally flock to Perry’s movies, but one wonders whether the fans of the books will believe Perry in the role and whether Perry’s mostly female audience will want to see him in a non-Madea movie chasing after a serial killer. Directed by Rob Cohen of The Fast and the Furious and xXx fame, reviews are generally going to be bad because it’s not a good movie, but we think the fanbase for the books and Perry might combine to bring in between $11 and 13 million opening weekend, which should put it just ahead of a fierce and tight race for third place between Argo, Taken 2 and Hotel Transylvania. We don’t think it will have much legs, and we think it will struggle to make $35 million, essentially killing off the chances of a new franchise.

Mini-Review

As mentioned above, this weekend last year saw the release of Paranormal Activity 3 (Paramount), which if you can’t tell by the title, was the third installment of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, this one being a prequel to the previous two films. It opened with $52.5 million, becoming the biggest opening for the month of October, surpassing Paramount’s previous 2010 record-setter Jack-Ass 3D. Paul W.S. Anderson got away from resident evils and went back in time to for the 3D adventure The Three Musketeers (Summit Entertainment), which tanked with just $8.8 million for fourth place behind Real Steel and Footloose, both which were capitalizing on strong word-of-mouth. It didn’t bomb as badly as Rowan Atkinson’s return with Johnny English Reborn (Universal), a movie which made $150 million internationally and then got released in the States to the sad tune of $3.8 million in 1,500 theaters which was still better than the previous week’s The Big Year. The Top 10 grossed $107 million but with much stronger returning movies bolstering the latest “Paranormal Activity.”

This Week’s Predictions -

1. Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount) – $46.5 million N/A

2. Alex Cross (Summit) – $11.4 million N/A

3. Argo (Warner Bros.) – $11.3 million -42%

4. Hotel Transylvania (Sony Pictures) – $11 million -36%

5. Taken 2 (20th Century Fox) – $10.8 million -51%

6. Sinister (Summit Entertainment) $8.7 million -52%

7. Here Comes the Boom (Sony) – $7 million -41%

8. Pitch Perfect (Universal) – $5.6 million -40%

9. Frankenweenie (Walt Disney) – $4.5 million -36%

10. Looper (FilmDistrict) – $3.4 million -45%

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is the Sundance favorite The Sessions (Fox Searchlight), written and directed by Ben Lewin and starring John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) as Bay Area journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, unable to move his body from the neck down but who at 38, decides it’s time for him to have sexual relationships with women so he sees a sex therapist, played by Helen Hunt. We’re still finishing up our review but it’s a wonderful film with great performances.

Review (Coming Soon!)

Interview with John Hawkes

Interview with Writer/Director Ben Lewin (Coming Soon)

Stephen Fung’s martial arts action-comedy Tai Chi Zero (Well Go USA Entertainment) stars Jayden Yuan as Lu Chan, also known as “The Freak,” a martial artist with destructive powers who travels to Chen Village to learn the local martial arts which he’s told might keep him from dying. There, he meets the beautiful Yunia (Chinese model Angelababy) and becomes involved with a conflict with a local man who wants to modernize the town with electricity with ulterior motives to run the tracks for his steam-powered train through the city. With action choreography by the legendary Sammo Hung, it opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday. Stick around through the credits for the trailer to next year’s sequel Tai Chi Hero, which comes out in China in January.

French filmmaker Leos Carax returns with his first feature film since 1999, Holy Motors (Idomina Releasing), starring Dennis Lavant as the mysterious Monsieur Oscar, who spends a day riding in a white limo through Paris to a series of “appointments” that has him putting on different disguises and becoming different characters from the father of a teen girl to a dying old man. The festival favorite that premiered at Cannes opens at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday and elsewhere in November.

Filmmaker Ry Russo-Young’s follow-up to the Sundance and Gotham award-winning You Won’t Miss Me is Nobody Walks (Magnolia), a drama starring Olivia Thirlby as a young filmmaker who travels to California to stay with a sound engineer played by John Krasinski and his family, only to end up disrupting their lives. Co-written by Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s hit comedy “Girls,” it opens in New York and L.A. at the Sunshine and Sundance Cinemas respectively.

Interview with Ry Russo-Young (Coming Soon!)

Jonathan Kasdan’s The First Time (Samuel Goldwyn Films) stars Dylan O’Brien (“Teen Wolf”) and Britt Robertson (“The Secret Circle”) as two teens from different high schools who meet at a party and end up spending the weekend falling in love even though she already has a significant other and he’s been pining over a girl he can’t have. Also starring Victoria Justice, it opens in select cities Friday.

Kevin Smith’s SModcast Pictures releases its first movie Alter Egos, Jordan Galland’s comedy about a superhero facing an emotional crisis after having his government funding cut and the girl he meets who can help him. It opens in New York on Friday and on VOD Saturday.

Corey Grant’s Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes (XLRator Media) involves a disgraced investigative journalist trying to disprove the body of a dead Sasquatch along with a documentary crew, putting all their lives in danger.

Carrie Preston’s That’s What She Said (Phase 4 Films) stars Marcia DeBonis, a woman who is excited about an upcoming romantic date, but first she has to deal with her cynical and talkative friends Dee Dee and Clementine, played by Anne Heche and Alia Shakat, as the three of them tackle New York City for a day. I imagine this was made for those who miss “Sex and the City.”

Katie Dellamaggiore’s doc Brooklyn Castle (Producers Distribution Agency) follows five kids who take part in an inner city high school chess team who face challenges at home as well as on the chessboard as they head towards the championships, while Arnon Goldfinger’s The Flat (Sundance Selects) follows his trip to Tel Aviv to clear out his grandmother’s flat after she dies at 98, going through photos, letters and files from the woman who first arrived in Israel during the ‘30s after leaving Nazi Germany as he tries to put together her story. Both open in New York at Friday, the former at the Landmark Sunshine and Elinor Bunin Munroe (and in L.A. on 10/26), while the latter opens at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Next week, the month of October closes off with four new movies including the return of the Wachowskis along with Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and their adaptation of David Mitchell’s complex novel Cloud Atlas (Warner Bros.), the video game sequel Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (Open Road Entertainment), Victoria Justice stars in the teen comedy Fun Size (Paramount) and Gerard Butler is Chasing Mavericks (20th Century Fox), which is not about the hunt for Sarah Palin as some may think from that title. It’s a surfing drama.

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas

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