Weekend Wrap-Up

This IS It at the box office

By John Hamann

November 1, 2009

Aren't you the guy who directed High School Musical?

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The record holder for opening weekend for a documentary is obviously Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11. That film grossed $23.9 million over three-days in June of 2004, and while This Is It was not able to beat that total, the five-day total for the Jackson film did. The other film Jackson couldn't beat was Best of Both Worlds, as the frenetic fans of Hannah Montana are simply more voracious than King of Pop's aging fanbase. The good news was that This Is It trounced the Jonas Brothers, as the boy band movie flopped with an opening of $12.5 million in late February of this year. The difference between Fahrenheit 9/11 and the Miley Cyrus/Jonas Brothers concert movies is the cost to bring these shows to the movie screens. It's no secret that Sony gambled $60 million on This Is It, paying off AEG Live for worldwide distribution rights for the film. Sony has said that This Is it will play for only two weeks, but as we learned from the Toy Story 3-D double feature, movie studios often change their minds about such things when big money is involved. Even after prints and advertising are paid for, Sony is still going to do very well off the late Mr. Jackson. Sony is also releasing the album from the film, which is set to debut at number one next week with sales of around 300,000 units. Then there is the DVD, which will include hours of unseen footage from director Kenny Ortega. Between the film, the soundtrack, and the DVD, Sony should see huge profits.

Finishing second is Paranormal Activity, the surprise hit of the season. It's somewhat ironic that the cheap-to-make horror flick sees the first drop of its sensational six-week run over Halloween weekend, but with the big day falling on Saturday, every holdover is going to see an extraordinary drop this weekend. Now out to 2,402 venues (it's come a long way since midnight screenings in 12 locations), Paranormal Activity earned a still solid $16.5 million and drops 22% compared to last weekend. This means that Halloween didn't take much away from the phenomenon that is Paranormal Activity. Don't forget it was made for $11,000, with the rights picked up by Paramount for $350,000, and has a gross so far of $84.8 million. It makes the $60 million paid by Sony for This Is It seem ludicrous.


Third spot came down to whether folks were willing to see action or comedy on Halloween night. Law Abiding Citizen faced off against Couples Retreat on Saturday, after both films basically tied on Friday with grosses of $2.4 million. In the end, Law Abiding Citizen fared better, earning $7.3 million for the weekend (off 41%), decently ahead of Couples Retreat's take of $6.1 million (off 43%). The good news for both of these films is that they aren't going to be financial disasters despite questionable film quality. Law Abiding Citizen cost Overture Films $50 million to make, and it has now earned $51.4 million. Couples Retreat cost Universal $70 million to make, and now has a running total of $86.7 million.

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