Weekend Wrap-Up

R-Rated Ultra-Violence Rules Box Office

By John Hamann

August 30, 2009

There's only so many photos of people looking terrified you can use for these things.

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Despite being a full two months prior to Halloween, we get a violent, fright-filled weekend at the box office, as two openers go after the same horror market this weekend. New openers include The Final Destination (which takes a titling page from Universal's Fast & Furious/The Fast and The Furious), and Halloween II, a new torture porn flick from Rob Zombie. Could two films, both R-Rated, that are going after the same horror dollar work? Could a weekend with four R-rated flicks in the top five propel the overall box office ahead of last year? You betcha, baby.

The weekend prior to Labor Day has always been a painful movie weekend. It's often one of those weekends where one might be able to check out some late-season summer blockbusters for the second time, or take the weekend off to rest up for the upcoming school year. Top 12 totals for this weekend have never reached $100 million. New releases over this August frame have included memorable titles such as The Cave, Invincible, Beerfest, Idlewild, WAR, Babylon A.D., and Traitor – only one of which (Invincible) found the top spot at a box office that was super-slow to begin with. Holdovers normally rule the weekend, with the second weekend of Tropic Thunder on top in 2008, the second weekend of Superbad in 2007, and the second weekend of The 40 Year-Old Virgin in 2005. This weekend in 2009 was obviously set up to change that trend, with two "sequel" releases primed to find college kids heading back to school.


Our number one film of the weekend is The Final Destination, which actually beat Halloween by more than the ticket markup for a 3-D release. Made for $43 million, The Final Destination earned $28.3 million from 3,121 venues, with a large percentage of those showing this one in 3-D. The weekend gross is more than tracking was looking for and is almost a breakout success, as estimators were looking for a total of about $20 million. This is by far the biggest opener ever for the Final Destination franchise. The first opened to $10 million in March of 2000 and found some ridiculous legs, finishing with a domestic total of $53.3 million, and an overseas gross of a similar amount. The first film cost only $23 million to make, so, despite not being a blockbuster, it was set up for sequel glory, and, well, here we are nine years and four films later. The second film in the series opened larger ($16 million), but finished smaller ($47 million domestic, $89.6 million worldwide), but was again hugely profitable due to a $26 million production budget. The third film completed the trend with a $19.2 million opening, a $54.1 domestic finish, and a $112.8 million worldwide finish against a $25 million production budget (oddly enough, the third film finished about $3,000 behind the first film). Obviously, the 3-D release of The Final Destination opened up its market somewhat, as its increase was beyond the 15% uptick in ticket prices due to the 3-D release.

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