Weekend Wrap-Up
High School Musical Jigsaws Saw V
By John Hamann
October 26, 2008

The Scorpions should totally stay away from the Thunderbirds' turf.

It was a battle of franchises this weekend at the box office, and may have been one of the oddest big business battles ever, as we have TWO films earning back their budgets on opening night. Saw V, the legendary Halloween opener, faced off against High School Musical 3: Senior Year, with its predecessor being the most watched cable broadcast ever. Both films were extremely cheap to make, and carried no big names (unless you read Teen Beat) or had huge production values. In fact, the only opener with a star this weekend was Pride and Glory, which starred Ed Norton and Colin Farrell, and again solidifies the trend away from A-list acting draws, and more into gimmicks. Those gimmicks made Disney and Lionsgate $72.5 million over three days, so expect more in your future.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is our number one film this weekend, and is admittedly a film and franchise I just don't get (and I know I‘m not alone). High School Musical 3 earned a powerful $42 million from an ultra wide venue count of 3,623. That score gives HSM3 a venue average of $11,593, enough to keep it ahead of Saw V, which opened in about 600 fewer venues. High School Musical 2 debuted on the Disney Channel in 2007, and garnered a record setting audience of 12.7 million viewers, the most ever for cable TV at the time. The franchise became a cash cow for Disney, selling extremely well on DVD, becoming a top selling soundtrack, and creating a musical tour, amongst a myriad of other thins. Disney claimed that prior to High School Musical 2, the franchise had already earned the company of $500 million, and after the second more than $1 billion - not a bad franchise to have in tough economic times.

Now, with the step up to the big screen, the money is even bigger. Made for a very small $11 million (up only $4 million from the TV sequel), HSM3 is going to end up being one of the most profitable films released in 2008, if not the most. The musical earned approximately $17 million on opening night, which likely means Disney was seeing real profit from this one by Saturday afternoon. On top of that, with this demographic, repeat viewings are pretty much ensured, so an opening-weekend to domestic-finish multiplier of as much as 3.5 is a probability, so a finish ahead of $150 million is most likely in the cards. And that's just the start. After domestic box office, international sales should be strong, followed by soundtracks, DVDs, clothes and concert tours and so forth.

We are talking billions here, folks, from a movie that I have to wonder how it resonates with teens. We aren't talking Oscar worthy stuff here (64% fresh at RottenTomatoes - but like this target audience cares what reviewers think), but at least films like Grease had some drama to them. Whatever the case, this is the biggest opening ever for a musical (unadjusted for inflation) ahead of Mamma Mia! and Hairspray, both of which debuted to a meager-in-comparison $27.5 million. HSM3 also has a shot a being the biggest domestic grossing musical ever (again, unadjusted for inflation) as it looks to take down Grease, which earned $181 million way back in 1978, long before Zac Efron was genetically engineered by the kind folks at Disney.

Finishing second is our annual torture porn extravaganza from the Saw franchise. Despite feeling tired and now ordinary, Saw V still got the lead out this weekend, earning $30.5 million from 3,060 venues. It had an average of $9,967. This franchise is doing a great job at recycling the same audience, as the opening weekend for this entry is on target with the score of the last, which came in at $31.7 million. Like High School Musical 3 (how bizarre is that statement?), Saw V was also made on the cheap, costing Twisted Pictures and Lionsgate only $11 million to make. The two companies have now spent only $37 million on five films (average of $7.4 million each), and they have earned just short of $150 million from combined opening weekends. The first four Saw films have a combined domestic total of $285.7 million, and a worldwide gross of $554.7 million.

Legs are not something seen from the franchise, as torture porn does not beget repeat viewings. Also, these films are pretty much awful, and this one especially made little sense. Saw V came in at 14% fresh, but again, just like the films of the High School Musical franchise, reviews mean absolutely bupkus to the people supporting the Saw films on opening weekend. Next weekend brings Halloween on a Friday, so Saw V might make some okay money next weekend, at least beating Saw IV's dizzying drop of 67% in its second weekend.

Finishing third is last weekend's champ, Max Payne. The Mark Wahlberg starrer got dumped this weekend, as it dropped 57% to $7.6 million, but it could have been worse. With two films opening to more than $30 million, Max could have seen a 60% plunge, so the folks at Fox might be okay with this score. Max Payne should at least match the production budget ($35 million) to the domestic total, which now stands at $29.7 million after ten days of release.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua still manages a fourth place finish despite the opening weekend of High School Musical 3. The Disney dog movie earned $6.9 million, off an okay 39%. Disney has absolutely owned October, with Chihuahuas at the beginning and dancing teens at the end. Chihuahua is still on target to finish with about $100 million, and has a current total of $78.1 million.

Fifth goes to the star-driven opener of the weekend, Ed Norton's Pride and Glory. Pride and Glory earned $6.3 million and was obviously dumped by Warner Bros., not having a chance against the two openers, and not even working as counter-programming. This is the same old cop drama we can watch a multitude of times on television, and reviewers caught on. Pride and Glory finished with a fresh rating of 36% - simply not good enough to help it compete on a busy weekend. This one cost $30 million to make, which means it cost $9 million MORE than the other two openers combined. Look for Pride and Glory to disappear without much of an impact.

The Secret Life of Bees is our number six film, and the drop here is a little disappointing. Bees earned $5.9 million after a surprise $10.5 million open last weekend, which gives it a higher than expected drop of 44%. The good news for Fox Searchlight is that Bees cost only $11 million to make, and has a gross so far of $19.2 million. BOP's thoughts go out to Jennifer Hudson, one of the stars of Secret Life of Bees, over this tragic weekend for her.

W., the George Bush biopic get its you-know-what handed to it this weekend, as the Oliver Stone flick drops from $10.5 million last weekend to $5.3 million this weekend. The drop was expected, as interested audiences have already come out, and there were a lot of people that were never going to see this one in the first place (count me in that group). So far, W. has earned $18.8 million against a budget of about $25 million.

Eighth place goes to Eagle Eye, as the Paramount/DreamWorks film continues to earn after five weekends. Eagle Eye took in another $5.1 million and was off a tight 27% from last weekend. The Shia LaBeouf flick has now earned $88 million, out-muscling its $80 million production budget. Eagle Eye should still finish with more than $100 million.

Ninth goes to Body of Lies, the forgotten Crowe/DiCaprio starrer. Lies earned $4.1 million, was off 40%, and now has a total of $30.9 million against a $70 million budget.

Quarantine rounds out the top ten. The other horror film in the top ten got absolutely crushed, earning only $2.6 million. It dropped 58%, but is still a success for Screen Gems, as it cost $12 million to make and has a gross so far of $28.8 million.

In limited release this weekend, Clint Eastwood brings Angelina Jolie to the screen in Changeling, which opened at 15 venues. It earned $501,615 and garnered an average of $33,441.

Overall this weekend, the box office was way up over last year, thanks to High School Musical 3. The top 12 films this weekend earned a powerful $120.5 million, well ahead of last year's $85.3 million, when Saw IV led all films. Next weekend will give a lot of that lead back, as Halloween lands on a Friday. Openers include Zack and Miri Make a Porno, from director Kevin Smith and star Seth Rogen, and the poorly scheduled horror flick, The Haunting of Molly Hartley.