Writethru Sunday AM after Friday/Saturday posts: This weekend clearly proved the challenges in launching films during the pre-Halloween weekend span — even if you have a horror movie.

With $75M in total ticket sales, this weekend was the second lowest of 2017 to date after the last frame of August which hit rock bottom with $69.3M. Overall, this weekend was 15% off from a year ago. Last year at this time, the annual B.O. was clicking past the $9B mark, and this year to date through the first ten months of the year, we’re 5% behind according to ComScore with $8.7 billion.

Typically the attitude among distributors is that the final weekend of October works if you have a horror film, and Saw has traditionally owned this period throughout the millennium, with 2006’s Saw III being the top opener for the franchise with $33.6M. However, the studios handling the most commercial horror fare this season — It and Happy Death Day — opted not to launch during this weekend because they knew how risky it is. Potential moviegoers are completely distracted with Halloween activities. Better to play into the holiday period, and that is what has also whittled away some of Liongate’s Jigsaw ticket sales, which is earning $16.25M for the weekend per the studio — the lowest FSS ever for a Saw movie. Most of the crowd came out for this film on Thursday and Friday, spending $7.1M, and business declined on Saturday to $5.67M. Lionsgate knew the film could file in the teens, but the industry believed the eighth Saw sequel in its re-branding had a shot at $20M-plus.

‘Amityville: The Awakening’
Dimension

However, Jigsaw‘s lower-than-expected turnout speaks to the challenges with age-old horror franchises. Horror aficionados in this It era have uber-high standards ($323.7M through Sunday), are keen to originality, and follow reviews. Jigsaw has a knife in its back from critics, who gave it a 42% Rotten score. Examples abound on how older horror reboots have paled: Paramount unplugged production on their long gestating Friday the 13th some time ago. Rings died at the box office in February, making $27.8M stateside. Dimension/Blumhouse’s Amityville: The Awakening starring Bella Thorne has been sitting on the shelf for the last two years because both studios’ are aware that this type of movie doesn’t work anymore. Well, before the Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, Dimension sold streaming to Lionsgate, and Amityville became available for free on GooglePlay earlier this month with a limited release by TWC this weekend with $742 at 10 runs on Saturday. Now, studios haven’t stopped their fixation on rebooting horror properties: They’re aiming to smash them and rebuild them under quality auteurs, read David Gordon Green and Danny McBride behind Uni/Blumhouse’s Halloween and Akiva Goldsman on Blumhouse’s Firestarter. 

Lionsgate believed that Madea with her female skew and Jigsaw with its older male skew wouldn’t cannibalize each other at the box office. As such, Lionsgate gets to call spots No. 1 and 2 wins with both Jigsaw and Boo 2: A Madea Halloween, the latter making $10M. Combined, both delivered $26.2M to Lionsgate.

Jigsaw was made for a responsible $10M production cost and with the ancillary vibrancy of this franchise, there can’t be too much red ink bleeding here. Saw overindexes in packaged media and digital ancillaries. Insiders assert the pic will be profitable. Already, through seven titles, the Saw franchise counts $874M worldwide. Foreign is off to a good start in three territories with $9.5M.

Paramount Pictures

Knowing that this weekend is slow for business on four-quad pics, studios tried to hook older crowds to the theater. But it wasn’t worth the trip for them with one Red State movie, DreamWorks/Universal’s Thank You for Your Serviceand one critically bashed arthouse film, Paramount/Black Bear’s Suburbicon respectively pulling in $3.7M and $2.8M. Suburbicon is an unfortunate B.O. low for Matt Damon among his titles that have opened north of 2,000 theaters. CinemaScore audiences slapped the George Clooney-directed hybrid with a D- CinemaScore. That’s just one half grade above the F that Paramount’s mother! earned. While both titles launched over the film festival circuits, mother! polarized audiences in its rawness, but was approved-by critics with a 69% fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating. However, Suburbicon — no one could make heads or tails of this 1950s period comedy/thriller at 27% Rotten. Clooney had a similar B.O. disaster two years ago with his produced political comedy Our Brand Is Crisis ($3.2M opening $7M domestic B.O. off $28M production cost). That Sandra Bullock-movie received a C+.

Jigsaw received a B CinemaScore, which is good for a Saw movie. Across its previous eight chapters, Saw II earned the best CinemaScore of B+, while Saw V received the lowest with a C.

Friday night turnout saw 57% men to 43% females, with 60% over-25, according to CinemaScore. Under-25 and under-18 both gave the horror film its best grades of B+. Lionsgate reports that 51% of Jigsaw‘s crowd was females.

On Thursday night, men outweighed females, 58% to 42% in ComScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak, but it’s the under-25 women (21%) and older males (30%) who loved Jigsaw the most, respectively with a 76% and 70% overall positive score. Most demos are giving the Spierig-directed movie its best definite recommends.

Lionsgate built a campaign with the theme “Jigsaw is everywhere.” They highlighted that in such activations as a virtual reality-enabled Escape Room at New York Comic-Con, a Halloween horror nights Saw maze, and in its outdoor campaign, which featured everyday people with face make-up inspired by the film’s Billy the Puppet.

Lionsgate touted an online socially conscious ad campaign called “All Types Welcome” with eight social media stars who had large gay, bisexual and transgender fan bases, which encouraged people to donate blood across 25 cities. Created by Liongate’s chief brand officer Tim Palen, the blood drive doubled as a protest against the donation regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration that prohibit most gay or bisexual men from donating unless they’ve foregone a sexual encounter for at least a year. About 125K pints were collected.

Among those stunts moving needles on social, there was a Friday the 13th-timed digital roadblock, which generated over 120M impressions across a custom Jigsaw Snapchat Lens, Twitter Trend, VEVO Playlist Sponsorship, and IGN Evil Dead 2  video game takeover.

Universal Pictures

While Thank You for Your Service was made for a modest estimated cost of $20M with targeted P&A toward the Red States, it’s not bringing in its faithful in an American Sniper type of way, even though the pic was directed by Jason Hall, that pic’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter. Those who bought tickets gave it an A-, and critics were kind with a 77% fresh score. Turnout here was 57% males, 39% over-50, and 74% over-25. American Sniper was fueled by Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s wattage, not to mention late sniper Chris Kyle had a respected following. That movie thrusted you into Kyle’s suspenseful POV and the polar moral choices he had to make in a flash second. Thank You for Your Service is a serious drama that deals with soldiers’ PTSD when they come home from war, and that’s a heavy subject for moviegoers, despite the feature’s earnest attempts. We saw a similar box office fate last weekend with Black Label/Sony’s Only the Brave, whereby truly, gut-wrenching drama kept audiences at home. Universal reached out to the military and veteran organizations and toured the pic’s talent and filmmakers at screenings in Washington D.C. with the Department of Veteran Affairs, as well as in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, St. Louis, Denver and Phoenix.

On social media, RelishMix observed in advance a divided reaction to Thank You for Your Service: “Moviegoers are praising what appears to be an accurate portrayal of military life and delight in a film that shows veterans in a positive manner. However, many who have a personal connection to the war or troops who served expressed that they found the story heavy. Many are divided of the topic of warfare, which could confirm this is a politically charged film.”

In addition, RelishMix calls out the Shania Twain song “Soldier” on the pic’s soundtrack as a huge miss in regards to hooking a bigger crowd. The song was #1 on the charts a few weeks prior. “In a featurette, Shania spoke – off camera – about the song. Prior to the release, Shania also had a message that played before the trailer featuring the song in some theaters…That said, it’s good that the campaign benefited from this music video posted to Shania’s VEVO channel on YouTube (drawing 211K views). However, it’s a considerable miss for the campaign that Twain did not talk about the film specifically on any of her official pages, nor did the official FB page post her clip.”

Paramount Pictures

Suburbicon is a feathered-fish and came out of the fall festivals with an awful buzz around it. It’s a period mash-up which is off-putting to audiences. Taking a look at Clooney’s directing resume, his credits aren’t intended to be commercial smashes, but rather, auteurish cinematic endeavors: His Edward R. Murrow story Good Night, and Good Luck was shot in black and white and only made $31.6M stateside and yielded six Oscar noms, including best picture and director (that said, it was only made for $7M). Why did Monuments Men work ($22m opening and $78M domestic)? Distribution execs point to that pic’s appeal in being a war film and caper comedy, as well as its all-star cast that included Damon, Clooney and Bill Murray.

RelishMix noticed that: “Potential moviegoers are unsure what ticket they’re buying with Suburbicon – for laughs, dark comedy or political commentary.” Who actually went? CinemaScore shows 55% men and 54% over 50. That later group condemned Suburbia with a solid F. Giving the pic a D- were men, 25+ demo (90%), and females at 45%. Given the situation with these stars, Paramount had no choice but to go wide following Venice and TIFF in order to get a return on its $10M investment and P&A and to get any headway they could heading into the competitive play period. For Black Bear Suburbicon cost $25M.  

“Some moviegoers have pointed out that the trailers seem to be tricking them into a dark comedy, when it is actually more like a thriller. As seen with the disappointment of mother!, chatter is stirring about what the journey will be, and there are plenty of rumors around Suburbicon that there is a hidden agenda or secondary story,” says RelishMix. Paramount ran all of its TV spots as a thriller. The pic’s theatrical trailer tested best with some comedy. This is the second fall film festival nosedive for the Melrose lot after mother!, which could still trump its sour B.O. performance ($17.8M) with its potential awards pedigree once Golden Globe and Oscar nom ballots are turned in. Paramount is crossing its fingers for Daddy’s Home 2 on Nov. 10.
Open Road

Big star Blake Lively, big director Marc Forster: It sure looks like Open Road’s blind female drama All I See Is You was orphaned with a limited opening of 283 locations and a per-screen of $479. Essentially the movie is a service deal for Open Road and they have zero risk in the film. Following the movie’s TIFF launch last year, the pic didn’t find any buyers. So, Open Road took on the film for a distribution fee, with the film’s financier handling P&A. They put up what they could to open the movie. It’s not a Lively feature in the way that The Age of Adaline was. All I See Is You is very ethereal in its execution, aiming to convey a feeling of its protag’s blindness, plus it has its fair share of sex scenes. I’m told it’s meant for the arthouse and was never intended to be a wide release. Open Road boss Tom Ortenberg and Forster go back to their Lionsgate days, when the filmmaker made the Halle Berry Oscar winner Monster’s Ball. 

Studio reported figures for the weekend of Oct. 27-29 as of Sunday AM: 
1.) Jigsaw  (LG), 2,941 theaters / $7.1M Fri. (includes $1.6M previews) / $5.67M Sat/$3.4M Sun/3-day cume: $16.25M / Wk 1

 2.) Boo 2! A Madea Halloween  (LG), 2,388 theaters (0) / $2.6M Fri. (-62%) / $4.7M Sat/ $2.6M Sun/3-day cume: $10M (-53%)/Total: $35.5M Wk 2

 3.) Geostorm  (WB/SKY), 3,246 theaters (0)/ $1.55M Fri. /$2.5M Sat/ $1.6M Sun/ 3-day cume: $5.67M (-59%)/Total: $23.6M/ Wk 2

 4)Happy Death Day  (UNI/BLUM), 3,535 theaters (+237) / $1.53M Fri. /$2.2M Sat/$1.36M Sun/ 3-day cume: $5.09M  (-46%)/ Total: $48.4M/Wk 3

5.Blade Runner 2049  (ALC/WB/SONY), 2,421 theaters (-782)/ $1.1M Fri. /$1.7M Sat/ $1.1M Sun/ 3-day cume: $4M (-46%) /Total: $81.4M/ Wk 4

6.) Thank You for Your Service  (DW/UNI), 2,054 theaters / $1.5M Fri. (includes $280K in previews) / $1.33M Sat/ $870K Sun/3-day cume: $3.7M / Wk 1

7.) Only the Brave  (SONY), 2,577 theaters (0)/ $1M Fri. /$1.45M Sat/$940K Sun/ 3-day cume: $3.45M (-43%)/Total: $11.9M/ Wk 2

 8.) The Foreigner  (STX), 2,505 theaters (-10) / $920K Fri.  /$1.43M Sat/ $860K Sun/ 3-day cume: $3.2M (-43%)/ Total: $28.8M/Wk 3

 9.) Suburbicon  (PAR), 2,046 theaters / $1M Fri. /$1M Sat/ $800K Sun/3-day cume: $2.8M / Wk 1

10.) It  (NL/WB), 2,560 theaters (0) / $690k Fri.  /$1.1M Sat/$630K  Sun/3-day cume: $2.46M (-29%) / Total: $323.7M / Wk 8

NOTABLES:

Let There Be Light  (ATLAS), 373 theaters  / $601K Fri. / $617K Sat /$401K Sun/PTA: $4,3K/3-day cume: $1.6M /Wk 1

Same Kind of Different As Me (PURE/PAR) 1,238 theaters (-124) $407K Fri /$497K Sat/ $331K Sun/3-day: $1.24M (-52%)/Total: $4.8M/Wk 2

The Snowman  (UNI), 1,815 theaters (+3) / $354K Fri. / $513K Sat/ $313K Sun/3-day cume: $1.18M (-65%)/ Total: $5.79M/Wk 2

All I See Is You  (OR), 283 theaters  / $49K Fri. / $52K Sat/ $34K Sun/3-day cume: $135k /Wk 1

Amityville: The Awakening (TWC) $742 Sat/3-day cume: $742/Wk 1

1st Update, Friday 7:44AM: Lionsgate’s Saw sequel Jigsaw earned $1.6M last night in Thursday previews at 2,400 locations.

That’s just under the $1.7M earned by Saw 3D, the last installment in the franchise seven years ago, from midnight screenings before the film posted an $8.976M Friday and $22.5M opening weekend. Likewise, tracking has this eighth Saw title landing in the low $20M range, which is commendable for a storied horror franchise. While the days of rebooting classic horror pics are technically over (Blumhouse/Weinstein Co.’s Amityville The Awakening is in limited release and was available on GooglePlay earlier this month for free) and early aught horror franchises out of breath (i.e. Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch and The Ring), here’s Jigsaw standing tall. The horror pic directed by Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig expands to 2,941 theaters today.

Fandango reported yesterday that Jigsaw advance tickets sales heading into the weekend are the best ever for any Saw title.

Two weeks ago, Blumhouse/Universal’s Happy Death Day made $1M on Thursday night, but that’s a PG-13 horror film and is a destination for women under 25. R-rated titles like Jigsaw skew older male. Happy Death Day beat its tracking with a $26M three-day.

Among regular ranked titles yesterday, Lionsgate’s Boo 2: A Madea Halloween took Thursday with an estimated $815K for a week’s total of $25.5M. The Tyler Perry movie is projected to dip 48% in its second weekend with $11M for a 10-day running cume of $36.5M.

DreamWorks/Universal’s Thank You for Your Serviceand Paramount/Black Bear Pictures Suburbicon aren’t expected to make dents at the box office respectively with $3.75M and $5M-$7M.

Thank You For Your Service
Universal/DreamWorks

Thank You for Your Service, directed by American Sniper writer Jason Hall off David Finkel’s 2013 book, grossed $280K last night at 1,760 locations with showtimes starting at 7PM. DreamWorks, Universal and AMC teamed to offer U.S. veterans and active-duty service members free tickets at more than 400 AMC locations. Pic follows a group of soldiers returning from the Iraq war with PTSD. Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Keisha Castle-Hughes and Amy Schumer star.

Suburbicon is a dark comedy directed by George Clooney and scripted by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, Clooney and his creative partner Grant Heslov. The pic did not resonate with critics coming out of Venice and the Toronto International Film Festival with a 29% Rotten Score. As such, Paramount couldn’t afford to platform this movie after shelling out a reported estimated $10M plus P&A.

Open Road has Marc Forster’s All I See Is You starring Blake Lively. It’s hitting 250 locations and reps a service deal for Open Road. Sierra/Affinity handled foreign. Open Road receives a distribution fee.