October 2003 has a series of films that are going to make studio marketing departments work very hard. Only a small few will have that big-time built-in audience that is seen so much during the summer and Christmas seasons. One might think that horror would be a staple in the Halloween month, but only two straight horror flicks are coming down the pike in October, after six horror/thrillers hit screens in the last fifty days. Box office was hot in September, the question is, will the trend continue?
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - New Line
That buzz you hear is not Leatherface's chainsaw, it's the legions of horror fans reacting to one of the best trailers in recent memory. New Line Cinema trots out The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on October 17th, and its going to be huge. The title alone continues to strike fear in the hearts of men, as a generation of moviegoers whispered about this film at high schools and colleges across North America for 20 years; now its being remade and a new generation of horror freaks are ready to embrace the new product. The 2003 remake of the Tobe Hooper classic stars Jessica Biel (TV's Seventh Heaven) and R. Lee Ermey (the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket), and carries a tiny $13 million production budget, which New Line could easily double-up on opening weekend.
Open: $27 million
2. Runaway Jury - 20th Century Fox
Runaway Jury should have a shot at the top 5 for October considering the pedigree of the talent involved in this best-selling-novel-based-movie. The 20th Century Fox film stars Oscar hopefuls John Cusack, Gene Hackman, and Dustin Hoffman, as well as Bruce Davison, Jeremy Piven, and Rachel Wiesz in this John Grisham nail-biter that was on bestseller lists for 25 weeks. However, the Grisham name doesn't provide the instant hit that his films did in the early nineties. Grisham's biggest was the early Tom Cruise vehicle The Firm, which opened to $24.4 million way back in 1993; it was followed by the Pelican Brief ($16.9m open) and The Client ($17.2m open). Since then the uber-novelist's movie fortunes dipped somewhat with A Time To Kill ($14.8m open), then things went really sour with The Chamber ($6.2m open) and The Rainmaker ($10.6m open). However, with the stellar cast and the buzz around this product, Fox should be able to open this in the $20 million range.
Open: $20 million
3. Scary Movie 3 - Dimension Films
Its been three years since the first Scary Movie blew the cover off the box office with a $42 million opening weekend, and two years since the sequel opened to less than half of that of the original. Is the Scream parody kaput? It's tough to think so. As long as the trailer is funny (it mostly is - the send-up of The Ring is great) and the film has more Anna Faris than Leslie Nielsen, Dimension Films should do fine with this one. I don't see it finding the $20.5 million that Scary Movie 2 opened to, but it could be close - people love this stuff for some reason.
Open: $18.5 million
4. Out of Time - MGM
Up until Denzel went Arthouse with Antwone Fisher, he was becoming the $20 million dollar man. John Q, Training Day, and Remember the Titans opened between $20 and $23 million in unfriendly blockbuster months like February, October and September respectively. Denzel usually brings the crossover audience out to theatres, but this time he's working for the often-unlucky MGM. Out of Time feels more like The Bone Collector or Fallen to me so I'm willing to bet that that this one comes up just shy of the $20 million mark.
Open: $17.5 million
5. The School of Rock - Paramount
Jack Black gets a lot of action on my DVD player, so its hard to believe he hasn't had a film open since early 2002's animated Ice Age. The man's face hasn't been on the big screen since Orange County in January 2002. The School of Rock is way overdue, and I'm hoping on a personal level that it does wayyyy better than my prediction. Black's biggest open (that he can mostly claim as his own) has been the under-rated Shallow Hal; it opened to $22 million in November 2001.
Open: $15 million
6. Kill Bill - Miramax
People that don't like the trailer for Kill Bill are off of my Christmas Card list. Who could want more? Uma Thurman jumping through the air with her sword, thrashing and crashing with Vivica A Fox and Lucy Liu, Michael Madsen looking sinister, and Daryl Hannah wearing an eye patch. Forget that it's Tarantino. It's an action movie, and probably one of those very rare -intelligent- action movies. If anything is going to pop in the month of October, this is it. For Miramax, if Kill Bill does open above $14 million, it will be their first since The Others did it in August 2001.
Open: $14 million+
7. Intolerable Cruelty - Universal
Can the Coens open a film above $10 million? They haven't had one yet, but they should have their first with Intolerable Cruelty, as Joel and Ethan look to be giving us their most commercial project to date. The cast is fantastic: George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer and Billy Bob Thornton; these names should help make this huge beyond the usual Coen Brothers fanbase. The biggest open so far for a romantic comedy in October is Miramax's Serendipity, which found $13.3 million in its opening frame in 2001; hopefully Intolerable Cruelty will be a better movie with a bigger opening weekend number.
Open: $14 million
8. Radio - Sony
Just when we thought we were done with Cuba Gooding Jr. for another year, he's back, this time playing a mentally challenged young man with the nickname Radio. The sports/feel-good movie is a hot item right now. Studios have had success with The Rookie, Remember the Titans, Hardball, and to a lesser extent Bend It Like Beckham. Ed Harris also stars in the true story, which should be manipulative enough to keep older moviegoers coming back for more.
Open: $9 million
9. House of the Dead - Artisan
Oh yay, another prequel to a video game. Most likely low-budget schlock that will disappear faster than Cabin Fever. Have a nice time, I'll be home watching baseball.
Open: $6.5 million
10. Beyond Borders - Paramount
I've never quite figured out why studios want to spend this kind of money on these National Geographic type movies; they are expensive, and most don't find English Patient grosses. Beyond Borders stars Angelina Jolie and potential new Bond-man Clive Owen, and the film revolves around their romance in war-torn Africa. Who are they kidding? Without Jolie in her Lara Croft outfit, her movies don't do all that well. She's opening this one all by herself, and it will be an incredibly tough sell, so I'm looking for an opening weekend that's less than Original Sin's $6.4 million debut and Life or Something Like It's $6.2 million open. This is going to have to be very good, or it won't stick around long.
Open: $6 million
Honorable Mention: Mystic River - Warner Brothers
Like Runaway Jury and to a lesser extent Kill Bill Volume One, Mystic River has a cast that one might think would be better served in the Oscar-crazy month of December. Clint Eastwood directs Sean Penn, Laurence Fishburne, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, and Marcia Gay Harden in what looks to be a dramatic mystery. WB has decided to offer up Mystic River for a limited release weekend on October 8, and then take the film wide on October 15. Eastwood films tend to open either fairly strongly (Space Cowboys, Absolute Power) or fairly poorly (True Crime, Blood Work). WB seems to pushing this one hard, but there was a similar push for Midnight in the Garden of Good Evil, and that film opened to only $5.2 million.
Open: $5.5 million (first wide weekend, three-day portion)