Saw Franchise Buzzes Box Office Again

Weekend Box Office Wrap-Up for October 27-29, 2006

By John Hamann

October 29, 2006

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I can't imagine that too many people are overly surprised that Saw III took the box office crown this weekend. What may surprise, though, is the continued strength of the franchise through its third installment. Other studios ran in fear of the buzzing sequel, as we had only one other opener (Catch a Fire) and a platforming arthouse release (Running With Scissors, which looks like a Wes Anderson rip-off). The real drama in the top ten came from continuing films The Departed, and The Prestige as they vied for second spot this weekend.

The number one film in a landslide is Lionsgate's Saw III, which is quickly becoming the most popular horror franchise ever, despite having only three films released (so far). Saw III grossed an impressive $34.3 million from 3,167 venues, giving it a hot venue average of $10,830. This installment of the cheap-to-make, easy-to-market franchise had an even better opening Friday than Saw II. The second installment grossed $12.1 million over its first Friday before ringing up an opening weekend of $31.7 million, which gives it an internal multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.6. Saw III grossed $14.2 million on opening day, and ended the weekend with a multiplier of 2.42. With sequels, no matter the Roman numeral that follows the title, multipliers tend to get lower. For films like the Saw franchise, there is a hardcore fanbase that needs to show up on opening day, which skews the multiplier lower. For a third film in a franchise like this to do this kind of business, Lionsgate has to be very pleased. A few weekends ago The Grudge 2 opened to much lower numbers than the original film in the series, which usually means the franchise is sputtering. With Saw III, there is not sputter in these saws, so you can expect to see another installment next Halloween.


The key to these films is the budget. The first Saw film came out of nowhere, costing only $1.2 million for Lionsgate before going on to earn $55.2 million domestically and over $100 million worldwide. The second film cost only $5 million to make and earned $87 million domestically and $150 million worldwide. Saw III cost Lionsgate $12 million and should earn as much as the second film did, both domestically and abroad. To illustrate the earning power of this franchise: the opening weekend alone for the first Saw film ($18.3 million) is about equal to all three budgets for this franchise, something not seen in today's Hollywood.

It was a close battle for second spot this weekend as The Prestige took on The Departed, which left Flags of our Fathers picking up the scraps. The Departed, Martin Scorsese's gangster movie with the stellar cast, comes out just ahead in second place. Already in its fourth weekend, The Departed earned a still-strong $9.8 million from 2,951 venues. The Departed is now looking to wallop The Aviator in terms of domestic box office, which will make the Infernal Affairs remake Scorsese's highest grossing film of his storied career. Where The Departed finishes now depends on Oscar. With a Best Picture win, this movie is easily a $150-160 million earner. Without it, you can still look for a take in the $120 million range. A win would be nice for Warner Bros, as the budget came in at around $90 million.

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