Weekend Forecast for October 23-25, 2009

By Reagen Sulewski

October 23, 2009

It looks like Jigsaw's gotten himself one of those Bill Belichick hoodies.

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What's turning into an uncommonly lucrative month of October at the box office tries for a third straight weekend with a $30 million film — and for that matter, doubles down on its chances for one.

When you look at film franchises that stake out a territory and defend it, year after year, it's difficult to come up with a better example than Saw. For the sixth straight year, a film from this grisly horror franchise is opening on or close to Halloween weekend. And with the exception of the first one, an unknown quantity at the time, all of them have opened to between $30 and 34 million (which actually represents a bit of a decline due to inflation, but at the same time opening weekends haven't increased to match inflation. This marks the end of the wonkishness of this column, don't worry).

There's apparently an overarching plot connecting all these films together somehow (I stopped watching them at number II, personally), but I'd be shocked if fans of the series really cared. What these films are about are ever increasingly shocking traps that cause death, dismemberment and pain, like a particularly sadistic version of the "Would You Rather?" game. Will audiences ever grow tired of it? They have to eventually, right? But with these being so cheap to make, even with last year's edition failing to double its opening weekend in final gross, they're still insanely profitable. Opening at a little over 3,000 venues, Saw VI should find itself in the standard range of about $31 million.


Horror of a decidedly tamer bent is next with Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. Based on an apparently popular series of young adult novels, it does for 12-year-old boys what Twilight does for 16-year-old girls (and, sadly, 40 year old women). John C. Reilly stars as a sort of Vegas-lounge-singery looking vampire, and ringmaster of the titular freak show, who brings in a young boy to be his right-hand-man. I feel like I should call the cops just writing that sentence.

Anyway, as in all these kinds of wish-fulfillment stories, the boy (played by relative newcomer Chris Massoglia, and who shares his character's name with the author — man, the creepy just keeps on coming with this, huh?) finds himself in the middle of an ancient war between two factions and yada, yada, yada, a lesson is learned by all. The tone of the ads for this are all over the place, with action, comedy, horror and camp all thrown in a blender set on "cliché", not so much that it matters for the intended audience, but it will poison the well for anyone old enough to make a bad attempt at a moustache. I see this opening up with about $13 million.

We move from kids films of the horrific variety to that of the more action-adventure bent, with the big-screen adaptation of Astroboy, the 1960s (and later syndicated) Japanese cartoon series. The story of a young robot created to replace the son of a brilliant scientist after he's killed in a car accident (that's totally the scientist's fault, by the way, if you remember the cartoon at all). Just like his real son, Astroboy has rockets for feet, and advanced weaponry built into his chassis... wait. I may have something of that wrong. In any event, Astroboy (who is creepily shirtless for much of the series) goes on to battle various villains and social problems.

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