Weekend Forecast for October 27-29, 2006

By Reagen Sulewski

October 27, 2006

Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are so mean.

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The last weekend of Halloween, fittingly, is headlined by a horror film from one of the most successful horror franchises of this decade.

For the third straight Halloween, a film from the Saw franchise opens on Halloween weekend (Halloween night is a terrible night for movies, but no matter). The series, which launched the trend of ultra-gory, sadistic horror that we've seen become so popular, grew from a Sundance buzz film to a $30 million plus-opening juggernaut.

Saw III attempts to up the ante with its Rube-Goldberg-gone-psychotic traps, which is the major justification for the film. I guarantee more thought was placed in attempting to figure out the ways for people to die in these films than in anything else. At any rate, Saw III has a dying Jigsaw, the main villain, clinging to life while his new prodigy puts a group of not so randomly chosen strangers through the wringer (if they use a wringer, I want $100).

The audience for this film is pretty well pre-sold, and basically just needed to be told it was coming out. Horror has been a bit off this year, with both a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film and a Grudge sequel disappointing at the box office. I don't see that same malaise affecting this series, and it may even seem some growth. It's a series that's striking while it's hot, and is insanely profitable, with sub-$20 million budgets. It's an easy winner of the weekend, with around $30 million.

The only other wide released film this weekend is Catch a Fire, a biopic of an apartheid-era black South African named Patrick Chamusso. After being falsely arrested on suspicion of sabotage and activism, then seeing his family jailed, he sheds his quiet life for one of activism and rebellion, in the process becoming a South African folk hero.


Chamusso is played by Derek Luke, who received a ton of attention a few years ago with Antwone Fisher, another powerful biopic. His antagonist is played by Oscar-winner Tim Robbins, portraying a South African police detective who hounds Luke's character.

Chamusso's story is not that well known in North America, which will likely present a barrier for it at the box office. It might compare somewhat to Hotel Rwanda, which was a much more familiar story, but had a platformed release. Catch a Fire isn't opening that wide itself, starting on just 1,300 or so screens, which is a reflection of both the unfamiliar subject and the merely moderate star power. It's positioning itself for Oscar attention, with box office at this point being a bonus. Look for about $5 million this weekend.

A limited release film to watch this weekend is Babel, which launches in seven theatres. Alejandro González Iñárritu's film has been building buzz ever since it won three awards at Cannes, including Best Director. Unlike a lot of Cannes winners, it has a lot of commercial potential, thanks to its stars, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Much like Syriana last year, Babel is a film that covers a series of interconnected stories, this time revolving around language and communication. Expect this to be the film with the highest per screen average this weekend, with it possibly earning as much as $400,000 on those seven screens.

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