November 1, 2010

Box Office Wrap-Up: Horror Sequels Rule The Roost

Gina Holden is trapped in Saw 3D
Courtesy: Lionsgate Entertainment
It was a busy Halloween weekend at the theaters as moviegoers packed the aisles, eager for some thrills and chills. Apparently they did not leave disappointed, as horror franchise behemoth Saw 3D carried the weekend with a comfortable $24 million opening. The supposedly last installment in the franchise benefited from jumping on the 3-D bandwagon, as audiences couldn't wait to have blood and guts launched at them from the series' infamous deadly traps.

Critical reception seemed to depend on whether or not you liked the previous films in the series. More mainstream critics tended to hold their noses and damn with faint praise, while series fan BC over at Bloody Disgusting held a few nitpicks over the plot, but ultimately concluded that “the series ended on a relative high note.” One of the more notable reviews is by Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, who pulls no punches: “Saw 3D is sicko-exploitative, viscera-spewing trash, but at least it has a lean and mean pace and focus, and it isn't clotted with backstory.” Even with the 3-D boost, Saw 3D ended up not opening as well as some of its gory predecessors, but Lionsgate seems pleased enough with its box office winnings that it wouldn't be surprising if they broke their promise and provided another bloody installment this time next year.

Mock-doc sequel Paranormal Activity 2 wasn't far behind in a decent second place after taking the top prize last weekend. Word of mouth hasn't damaged this one too much, though the film only made $16.5 million this time around after it's $65 million debut. While the sequel's budget was a bit meatier than the original's claimed $15,000, it's still making a hefty profit that's surely making studio executives delighted. This proves that the mock-doc craze still has legs; expect more shakycam and bumps in the dark for next year's Halloween festivities.

Bruce Willis actioner Red hung in there at third place, proving some serious box office legs. Not bad for a somewhat flimsy but fun film with more explosions than sense. At least it has Helen Mirren toting a gun, which is more than most of its competitors can boast. Right behind Red is Jackass 3-D, continuing the reap the dollars of teenage thrillseekers everywhere with another $8.4 million to its name.

Interestingly, we're heading into November with genre films dominating the day, while the more serious offerings lag behind. Summer blockbuster-type movies are being released later and later into the fall, it seems, making for some interesting results when they collide with the more traditional, stodgier fare. Feel-good horse biopic Secretariat is hanging in there in sixth place and five million dollars, while buzz-heavy The Social Network has slipped to seventh. Down here is where most of the Oscar bait films are hovering; Hilary Swank's Conviction is slotted in at tenth with $1.8 million to its name. Part of this is due to the limited release tactics studios use for their award-worthy films in order to drive buzz, but I can't help but wonder if audiences don't hold as much of an appetite for the serious stuff this time around as in previous years. It'll be interesting to see once the serious Oscar contenders start getting released around Thanksgiving.

Here's the full top ten:
  1. Saw 3D - $24.2 million
  2. Paranormal Activity 2 - $16.5 million
  3. Red - $10.8 million
  4. Jackass 3-D - $8.4 million
  5. Hereafter - $6.3 million
  6. Secretariat - $5 million
  7. The Social Network - $4.7 million
  8. Life As We Know It - $4 million
  9. The Town - $1.9 million
  10. Conviction - $1.8 million

How does the box office compare to viewers tastes? Check out what was most popular on MRQE last week!

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