Before we get started with this week’s forecast, let’s clear up an overstated misconception. Hollywood is not out of new ideas. Writers have plenty of them. They are not, however, determined to be marketable once the ideas reach committee and a swarm of soulless suits reject them out of hand in favor of Battleship the Movie. Keeping this in mind, this is the time when we discuss the triumphant return of Freddy Krueger, a topic that gives those of us who were talking box office back in August of 2003 a strong sensation of déjà vu.
Weekend Forecast for April 30 - May 2, 2010
By David Mumpower
April 30, 2010
At the start of the decade, the next big thing had been determined to be North American adaptations of Asian cinema. After we’d had our fill of those, there was a brief strategy to update established properties by pitting them against one another, with Freddy vs. Jason being the prototype for this philosophy. After the movie opened to $36.4 million (an inflation-adjusted $45.3 million in 2010 ticket pricing), many more variations on this theme were expected. Unfortunately, the lawyers and bean counters got involved. The problem with a joint licensed project is that revenues must be shared. Putting this in terminology the average BOP reader will understand, hookers were forced into business with pimps and it was not the most satisfactory of symbiotic relationships. Ergo, a lot of rumored projects such as Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash never got off the ground, save for a comic book face-off.
A lot of ill will was created in the process, forcing studios to reevaluate their own properties, thereby making the only determination that ever matters in our industry: how to maximize profit. Two months after the release of Freddy vs. Jason, something noteworthy happened in our industry. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the shining definition of cult classic, was updated for modern audiences. Starring soon to be mega-famous Jessica Biel, the movie opened to $28.1 million, more than the original earned in its complete domestic run. Dollar signs flashed in the eyes of execs at every studio and they stood up and took notice even more when Zack Snyder directed a white-hot adaptation of Dawn of the Dead that earned almost $100 million worldwide. Suddenly, long dormant properties looked like the new big thing and yes, the irony of that statement was lost on all involved.
Over the past few years, several semi-established horror titles such as Last House on the Left, The Stepfather, My Bloody Valentine and The Hills Have Eyes have all made mostly triumphant returns to the cineplex. Halloween, the bronze medalist in the Horror Movie Olympics, has also garnered two different releases, both of which did moderately well. But the two most important horror properties of the past 30 years are unmistakable, the ones that feature the aforementioned Freddy and Jason. When Mr. Voorhees had a remake announced, it was only a matter of time before Mr. Krueger would follow suit.
The question becomes whether Nightmare on Elm Street can avoid the overall fate of Friday the 13th, whose 2009 release became the new textbook definition of a one day wonder at the box office. It earned a massive $19.3 million on its opening day in theaters before flaming out at a historic pace, finishing with only $65.0 million domestically. A full 30% of the movie’s final take was accrued on its first day in theaters. That is epically bad word-of-mouth. The good news for the folks behind Freddy Krueger’s 2010 appearance is that the first day of Friday the 13th box office demonstrates that there was tremendous demand for the remake. Had the filmmakers not let the fans down by delivering a critically reviled, fan rejected product, we would be talking about the rare horror movie that approached and perhaps even surpassed $100 million.
Instead, we are talking about the cinematic equivalent of New Coke, New Coke being the theater beverage of choice the last time Nightmare on Elm Street was popular as a franchise. And don’t think for a second that I am joking on this point. Remember that Dokken was popular the last time these movies were a significant box office factor. Dream Warriors (sorry for the earworm) and The Dream Master, the third and fourth movies in the franchise, both earned over $40 million domestically in 1987/1988. The disingenuously named The Final Nightmare, released in 1991, managed only $34.9 million and by the time the franchise started anew with New Nightmare in 1994, the thrill was gone. Only $18.1 million worth of consumers were willing to give it a shot. Two years later, Wes Craven leveled up with Scream and the world of cinema was so much the better for it as Freddy Krueger masks were stuck in the attic, making only the one return in the next 15 years and only then to combat frenemy Jason Voorhees.
Freddy Krueger hasn’t terrorized the residents of Springwood, Ohio (feel free to stump your friends with this bit of trivia this weekend) for far too long. Fast forward to this weekend and the denizens of Elm Street are going to suffer then die, much to the thrill of teen audiences across North America, some of whom were conceived while their parents listened to Dokken (how is that for scary?). I am of the opinion that Nightmare on Elm Street is the most pedigreed horror franchise because it was not run into the ground the way that Friday the 13th has been…and I say that as someone who got a kick out of the franchise’s ugly step-child, Jason X. I am expecting a similar opening weekend to Friday the 13th’s $40.6 million, but Nightmare on Elm Street will have significantly better legs. Let’s say a $37.5 million start is in the offing and a Dokken comeback is probably not too far behind. If I am only right about one of these, please let it be the former and not the latter.
There is one other major new release this weekend, the amusingly titled Furry Vengeance. Coincidentally, this is exactly what I shout each and every time I penetrate a woman. That tidbit alone is more noteworthy than anything involving this, the latest Brendan Fraser attempt to buddy up to MILFs. His is a good dating plan, but I think we all agree that Furry Vengeance is much more of an Inkheart ($7.6 million opening, $17.3 million domestic revenue) than a Journey to the Center of the Earth ($21.0 million opening, $101.7 million domestic revenue). In fact, the only worthwhile thing Furry Vengeance gives us is a wonderful battlecry on Xbox Live. I’m expecting box office of around $9 million, but it is the best film title since Ninja Assassin.
Apropros of nothing, our friends at ERC sent out a release schedule last year that included an incorrect notation that Richard Curtis would be the director for Nightmare on Elm Street. I say this not to tweak them as their service is reliable and well worth the money if you have ever considered using it. Instead, I want to point out that some of us here at BOP have absolutely fallen in love with the idea of the director of Love Actually and writer of Blackadder doing a slasher film. If you know Richard Curtis, please ask him to make this happen. He could even change the soundtrack lyrics to Death Is All Around Us and have Freddy Krueger dress up as Billy Mack as he sings it to a victim. Yes, I’ve thought about this too much.