Long Distance Box Office: Evil Dead vs. Scary Movie 5


We’re back with another look at the movies coming out in two months or more. Originally, I wanted to look at the two movies opening on the weekend of April 12, but then TriStar Pictures moved their horror remake of Evil Dead up a week to April 5, meaning it wouldn’t open directly against Dimension Films’ return to horror spoofs with Scary Movie 5. Undaunted, I’m going to still look at both of their box office prospects and how this move might potentially help both of them.

Both movies have seemingly been in development or talks for years, at least since the middle of the last decade with Scary Movie 5 following nearly seven years after the last installment in a series that saw four movies released in four years. Even though it opens one week later, I’m going to look at that one first since it’s somewhat of a known quantity.

The original Scary Movie opened in the summer of 2000, an R-rated spoof of Wes Craven’s Scream by the Wayans Brothers, which had been a huge hit for Dimension Films, and it became the highest opening R-rated comedy with $42.4 million on its way to $157 million. The sequel followed a year later, opening over 4th of July proper, but failed to find its mark, opening and grossing half the original.

Two years later, Dimension Films was ready to give it another try, but this time Scary Movie 3 was released with a PG-13 rating and without the Wayans who had moved on to other things. Instead, David Zucker, who was more than familiar with the spoof comedy genre, took over and it proved to be a big hit, opening in late October 2003 with $48 million and grossing $110 million. The fourth installment opened slightly lower two-and-a-half years later taking its $40 million opening to $90 million total. Essentially, the four movies grossed $752 million worldwide, which you’d think would lead Dimension to keep the ball rolling.

Evil Dead, on the other hand, is a remake of the Sam Raimi-Bruce Campbell horror franchise that began with the ultra-low-budget The Evil Dead in 1983. That made roughly $2.4 million in limited release, but it led to the sequel Evil Dead II four years later which grossed $6 million and then the third chapter Army of Darkness in 1993 which grossed $11.5 million. That may not seem like a lot of money (and it’s not), but it helped establish Raimi as a serious fan favorite genre filmmaker that studios like Universal and Sony would come to for interesting projects, and it ultimately led to him directing a trio of Spider-Man movies that grossed over a billion dollars domestically. Bruce Campbell also created quite a fanbase for himself with his character Ash, who went on to appear in comic books and video games.

Raimi and Campbell have been talking about reviving the franchise for a long time, but this time Campbell is acting as a producer while establishing new characters, including the lead played by Jane Levy of the ABC show “Suburgatory,” who one can presume is the new Ash if the series moves forward. They found a Uruguayan director named Fede Alvarez to make this remake his first feature.

As far as Scary Movie 5, gone is Anna Faris, the comic actress who cut her teeth on the four “Scary Movies” before moving on to other things, as she’s replaced by Ashley Tisdale from the “High School Musical” series. One returning character is George, played by Simon Rex, who appeared in the third and fourth movies, but instead they’re relying on pop culture and tabloid figures such as Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Heather Locklear, Kendra Wilkinson and Mike Tyson to try to get people into theaters. Plus they have Katt Williams to try to bring in his African-American fans. Director Malcolm Lee of Undercover Brother will add to that appeal to a lucrative moviegoing audience.

While Scary Movie 5 certainly has a stronger and a better known cast, what Evil Dead has going for it is that it looks absolutely horrifying and it’s super-gory, something one can tell from the Red Band trailer as well as the recent news that the movie was originally given a debilitating NC-17 rating before it was cut down a bit for an R. That may keep some of the more sensitive moviegoers away, but it’s a guaranteed draw for true horror fans and college-age students who’ve helped create other big horror remake hits by attending en masse.

Although Scary Movie 5 is less than two months away, we still don’t know what it’s going to be rated. We probably would assume that it’s going to be PG-13 like the last two movies since that worked so well, and that would definitely be one good thing going for the movie since PG-13 movies have been faring better than their R-rated counterparts the last couple of months. What seems odd is that the timing has created a situation where the first “Scary Movie” in years is following just three months after Marlon Wayans’ own return to horror spoofs with A Haunted House, which opened with $19 million in early January. That really puts Scary Movie 5 in a tough spot, since it’s essentially spoofing the same movies–mostly “Paranormal Activity”–and moviegoers may have already felt they saw that movie. You would also think Dimension would have learned their lesson with Wes Craven’s Scream 4, which was released over ten years after the previous installment and grossed less than $40 million, but clearly, they think there’s a market for this kind of comedy.

The movies above aren’t the only movies opening in their respective weekends although I don’t think Jurassic Park 3D or Brian Helgeland’s baseball drama 42 will offer as much interest to the 15 to 25-year-old audience that would go see them. Also Tom Cruise’s sci-fi action movie Oblivion is being released by Universal into IMAX theaters, probably in somewhere between 300 to 400 on April 12. As we saw with the similar release for Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the IMAX format is a favorite among movie fans who might try to catch the movie a week before its nationwide release. This one won’t have a preview for The Dark Knight Rises and it’s also not an installment in a popular franchise, so we don’t expect it to have as big a showing even if it could cut into the audience that goes to see Scary Movie 5.

The other thing going for Evil Dead is that TriStar Pictures is premiering it at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, which shows a lot of confidence that they feel the movie will create strong buzz among the attending journalists, critics and movie fans leading up to its release (much like Cabin in the Woods last year).

Bottom line, I’m not confident Scary Movie 5 can succeed with such a long gap between movies and following A Haunted House, I think it will end up opening in the $15 to 18 million range, while Evil Dead looks generally scary and I think that one is shooting for an opening in the mid-to-high $20 million, possibly even pushing $30 million. It’s hard to determine whether either will have any sort of legs, because they’re both the types of movies that do big business opening weekend, but we probably can expect an Evil Dead 2 before we’ll see Scary Movie 6.

You know what? Next time, I’m going to just go ahead and jump into the summer (which is less than three months away!) and look at the prospects for Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3. How about them apples?