Halloween brought the horror out to movie theaters this weekend, and Saw II, pretty much by itself, brought the box office back to life. We had four wide release openers, the aforementioned Saw II from Lions Gate, Sony's expensive The Legend of Zorro, Prime with Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep, and The Weather Man, starring a sad-looking Nic Cage. Without Saw II, we would be having another one of the slow weekends full of disappointments to which we've become so accustomed. It's amazing what a $30.5 million opener will do.
Saw 2 Jigsaws Zorro, Weather Man at the Box Office
Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for October 28-30,2005
By John Hamann
October 30, 2005
What do you do when your first film, shot for a little over $1 million dollars, rakes in over $100 million worldwide at the box office? Make another, quick. That's what novice filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Whannell, along with Lions Gate, did with the now-franchise Saw films. Despite opening against the second weekend of The Grudge last year, the original Saw grossed $18.3 million from 2,315 venues over the same weekend. Saw finished with $55.2 million in the domestic kitty, and was considered a breakout success, considering the tiny budget and the film virginity of the director and one of its stars. This Halloween we get Saw II, with a budget tripled to a still-tiny $4 million, starring no one, and featuring another new director. Could Lions Gate repeat their success, and if so, how much higher could the sequel open?
Saw II is the number one film by a landslide, and is one of the very few big surprises at the box office for 2005. Saw II grossed an out-of-this-world $30.5 million from 2,949 venues. That equals a venue average of $10,342. Tracking estimates had Saw II finishing the weekend with about $22 million, so to say it was off badly is an understatement (BOP's Reagen Sulewski was much closer with a $27 million estimate). As expected, the internal weekend multiplier for Saw II was a sequelish 2.5; however, with Halloween on Monday, Saw II should have another good night on Monday, making Saw II's opening even better. Saw II had the same mixed-to-bad reviews that the original had, with Saw II coming in at 38% fresh compared to the original's rating of 45% (if you thought reviews were going to be good I have some oceanfront property for you in Idaho). After the success of the original, there was no doubt that there is a large audience for grisly horror, as the Saw franchise promotes a similarity to '70s icon The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Saw II was made for an absolutely tiny $4 million, and to make almost eight times the budget over opening weekend provokes comparisons to films like The Blair Witch Project. Think of it this way: for both films, Twisted Pictures and Lions Gate Entertainment have now paid about $5.2 million in production costs and have recouped $130 million worldwide, with a lot more to come from the sequel (and its sequels). A solid franchise has been born this weekend, so you can expect to see another Jigsaw flick next year.
For Lions Gate, Saw II is just another entry into what's been a simply fantastic year for the studio. It all started with Diary of A Mad Black Woman, which opened to over $20 million before earning $50 million at the domestic box office against a budget of about $6 million. Then the studio had Crash, a $7 million production which earned $55 million domestically and another $20 million overseas. They've also had The Devil's Rejects which earned $16.9 million versus a $7 million budget, and Waiting with a budget of $1 million and a gross so far of about $15.5 million. Now they have Saw II, which will easily be their biggest of the year. Unless something bizarre happens come Christmas, Lions Gate is a shoe-in for studio of the year.
In a depressing box office year, the good news never lasts long, and we're back to disappointing results with The Legend of Zorro. Maybe the king of unnecessary sequels, audiences caught on to this one before opening weekend and the result is an opening well off what tracking was indicating. The Zorro sequel grossed a less-than-expected $16.5 million this weekend from an ultra-wide 3,520 locations, giving it a venue average of $4,687. The original Banderas/Zorro flick was a summer film back in 1998, with a budget of $95 million. It earned $22.5 million (in 1998 dollars) over its opening weekend, and tracking was looking for a similar figure. With the original, Columbia Pictures had a good film that was destined to have legs; with the sequel, they have the opposite. Reviews for The Legend of Zorro were brutal, with only 23 positive reviews out of a possible 91, leading to a quite rotten score of 25%. This one cost $80 million to make and will have to work hard to earn back half of that domestically. Internationally, this one still has a chance, as the first one made $95 million in the domestic market and came out with an international total of $250 million.
Third goes to our first wide release that got massacred this weekend, Prime, starring Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep. Universal failed to give this one the marketing push or the venues to put it into a winning position. With only 1,829 locations, Prime grossed $6.4 million, giving it a venue average of $3,500. What this film needed it didn't have, and that is reviews. At RottenTomatoes, only 35 reviews out of a possible 74 were positive, giving it a fresh rating of 47%. That's not going to cut it with a movie like Prime, and we will see this one in the $9.99 bin at Wal-Mart before Christmas 2005.
Fourth this weekend goes to Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, the horse movie starring Dakota Fanning and Kurt Russell. After opening with an okay $9.2 million last weekend, DreamWorks tried to cash in on kid word-of-mouth and added almost 500 venues, bringing the total up to 2,491. The move worked fairly well, as Dreamer grossed $6.3 million in its sophomore frame, down a not-bad 31%. Made for about $30 million, Dreamer should finish with about $40 million, or more if word-of-mouth kicks it up a bit.
Fifth goes to Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, who hang on to a top five spot after four weeks of release. The cheese fanatic and his dog dropped a larger-than-expected 49% this weekend, pulling in a gross of $4.4 million. As good a film as this one is, its somewhat surprising to see the bottom fall out so quickly; however, we saw a similar thing with Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, so maybe parents are perceiving these films as too scary. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit has now earned $49.8 million versus a budget of about $30 million.
Way back in sixth this weekend is The Weather Man from Paramount, which has a huge star and huge director, but very few venues. Surprisingly, this Nic Cage (The Rock, National Treasure) and Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) movie received only 1,510 venues for its debut, and it's paying for it with a debut in sixth. The Weather Man grossed $4.2 million, and didn't even do all that well in terms of screen average, as it finished with an average of $2,798, good for fourth best in the top ten. It didn't help that one of the first reviews for The Weather Man called it "one of the biggest downers to emerge...in recent history". Things got a bit better review-wise, but it couldn't recover. The RottenTomatoes rating ended up at 55% fresh, which is mixed at best. Stranger things have happened; The Weather Man could find an audience... the possibility of that happening next weekend? Almost zero percent.
After finishing in top spot over the last frame, Doom got hammered this weekend, falling a spectacular 74%, a dive usually reserved for really bad horror sequels. Doom grossed a very poor $4.1 million this weekend, and should be out of the top ten after this weekend. The $80 million film has now earned $22.9 million, and may struggle to reach $35 million.
Eighth goes to North Country, as WB failed to add any screens in its second weekend. The Charlize Theron starrer grossed $3.7 million, off a large 43% from last weekend. The $35 million film now has a total gross of $12.2 million.
Ninth goes to The Fog, as the John Carpenter remake got hammered in the face of Saw II. The Fog grossed $3.3 million this weekend, down 51% from last weekend. Made for only $20 million, The Fog now has a cume of $25.5 million.
Flightplan finishes in tenth this weekend with a gross of $2.6 million. The Jodie Foster thriller has now earned $81.2 million.
Overall this weekend, despite the impressive performance of Saw II, the top ten box office still lagged behind last year's totals. The top ten this weekend earned about $82 million, close, but not close enough to last year's total of about $89 million.