Saw 3D Wins The Fight; Paranormal Activity Wins the War
By John Hamann
October 31, 2010
It was the big horror showdown at the box office this weekend, as the new kid on the block – the scary Paranormal Activity 2 - was facing off against the Halloween staple of the last seven years – the grisly Saw – which was rolling in 3D for the first time this weekend. Supposedly the final entry in the series, Saw 3D was looking to bounce back from an abysmal showing last year when Saw VI opened to only $14.1 million, 50% less than the last four films in the blood spattered series.
Funny how history repeats itself. Seven years and seven Saw films ago, it was Halloween 2004, and just like this weekend, the ghoulish night fell on a Sunday. The horror surge of the first half of the decade was in full bloom, as The Grudge had opened the weekend before Halloween in 2004 to $39 million, and was looking to bask in good word-of-mouth over its second frame. Its only competition was the adult-skewing Ray, and a small, $1.2 million horror flick called Saw from upstart distributor Lionsgate, whose only claim to fame at that point was releaseing Fahrenheit 9/11 and Monsters Ball. Seven years later, the shoe is on the other foot. The Paranormal Activity franchise is now the cheaply-made horror money machine, while the Saw franchise now struggles in theaters rather than going straight-to-DVD. The thing that's the same this weekend as seven years ago is that Halloween night is landing on a Sunday, and as far as box office goes, that's a pretty good thing.
In 2004, the original Saw popped, earning $18.3 million from only 2,315 venues, and despite the big opening, it placed third. Ray finished second with $20 million, and The Grudge repeated with $21.8 million, off only 44% from the previous weekend. The actual Halloween Sunday was a much better day for Saw, as that was the only day over the weekend the R-rated horror flick finished first in the daily rankings.
This weekend, Saw 3D is the winner, but Paranormal Activity is going to win the war. Saw 3D earned a solid, but not spectacular, $24.2 million from 2,808 venues, many of those 3D and charging the 15% uptick. Saw 3D had a venue average of $8,618. This version of the splatter fest cost about $20 million to make, so the franchise manages (barely) to go seven for seven at beating its production budget with its opening weekend gross. Production costs for the entire series finish off at about $68 million, and opening weekend totals tally about $180 million. Prior to Saw 3D, worldwide totals for the series had reached $730 million against that $70 million initial investment. If this were to be the last film of the series (until it continues in the future or is rebooted), it would end it on a high note of decent profitability, even if the big money numbers for the series lived from part two to part five. The 3D aspect of this Saw couldn't propel it to the box office heights of the Jackass variety, or get it ahead of some horror 3D brethren like My Bloody Valentine, which opened to $21.2 million in early 2009. Obviously, 3D alone is not driving audiences to theaters.