SUNDAY 9:30 AM, 5TH UPDATE: No surprise that a genre scarer did so well on a weekend frontloaded by Friday The 13th. But grosses flattened Saturday because of what my sources say was the big Mayweather vs Alvarez fight which scored big TV ratings from Las Vegas last night. That cooled what initially was hot total moviegoing this September weekend to $95M, only +10% over last year’s.
Regular readers know that I believe online domestic pre-sales are a more accurate indicator of a movie’s box office opening strength than traditional tracking. So it’s meaningful that FilmDistrict’s PG13 and 2D Insidious: Chapter 2 (released into 3,049 theaters) trended as Fandango’s top horror pre-seller of the year. And the grosses produced by Blumhouse horrormeisters Jason Blum and Oren Peli on just a $5 million budget were indeed record-breaking: an impressive $20.1M debut Friday (including $1.5M in Thursday’s late shows and Friday’s midnights) and $13.4M Saturday for a $41M weekend. Pic now becomes 2013’s 2nd biggest grossing horror opening behind The Conjuring and sets 2nd largest September debut. (Only 3 live-action movies in the past decade have ever opened over $30M in this traditionally slow month. Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania did $42.5M in September 2012.) Weekend was double what FilmDistrict was expecting and another winner for CEO Peter Schlessel who tells me he credits distribution chief Jim Orr and marketing czarina Christine Birch for the huge weekend. Sequel overwhelmed the first installment’s $13.3M. Here are more stats: Blumhouse now becomes the first production company to have two movies with budgets of $5M or under gross over $30M on opening weekend in the same year. With The Purge and Insidious: Chapter Two, Blumhouse has produced 2 micro-budget films in the past four months that grossed over $30M in their opening weekends. Combined, the two movies will have earned over $65M on their opening weekends with combined budgets of $8M. Yowza! Despite tepid critical reviews, audiences gave the Insidious sequel a ‘B+’ CinemaScore for James Wan‘s direction of the cast of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne in Leigh Whannell’s screenplay. FilmDistrict’s marketing campaign targeted a younger audience (15-34 year olds) and focused on females during cable draws like ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars and the genre’s growing Hispanic market. The studio created customized Latino creative exclusive content featurettes, radio and TV spots as well as hosted a Miami Press day. The film’s trailer launched with The Purgeand continued via Comic-Con, paranormal conventions, the Vans Warped Tour, and exposure at Six Flags. Exit polling this weekend showed audiences were 52% male/48% female with 62% under the age of 25/38% age 25 and older. Internationally, Insidious 2 opened #1 in the UK, traditionally the second biggest market for horror films after the U.S., with a bigger opening than recent hits like The Conjuring and The Purge.
This other weekend’s new release was Relativity’s and Europacorp’s co-financed and co-produced dark adult comedy The Family (3,091 theaters). It stars Robert De Niro. Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones directed and co-written by Luc Besson and executive produced by Martin Scorsese in yet another unnecessary and derivative gangster pic. With a disappointing ‘C’ CinemaScore from audiences and tepid critical reviews, this R-rated pic opened with a so-so $5.3M Friday and $5.3M Saturday for a $13.9M weekend. That’s smack in the middle of what Relativity was low-balling but no Red which in 2010 opened to $21.7M and also was aimed at older males and females. “We are pleased with the result and the film’s performance. The point is that the movie cost $30M and it’s going to make back half its budget in opening weekend,” insisted a Relativity exec – not taking into consideration P&A or the usual 3X formula. But stars are supposed to deliver openings above $20M and this movie had 3 big names who can’t draw audiences anymore on their own. This is only De Niro’s second biggest opening over his past 10 non-Meet The Parents franchise pics. (Limitless, another Relativity film, was #1.) Going to the gangster well again and again just diminishes him. Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh took a producer credit: but surely he couldn’t have fantasized yet another De Niro cash grab with lousy reviews would do any awards business? Michael Caleo of The Sopranos co-wrote based on Tonino Benacquista’s novel Malavita. Since Relativity recently revamped its in-house marketing and advertising, I’d be wasting words discussing the very forgettable campaign which surely contributed to the mediocre result. Relativity and Europacorp made this pic as part of an overall co-production and financing deal, with Relativity releasing in the U.S., Europacorp overseeing international distribution, and EOne taking Canada.
Here’s the Top Ten list based on weekend estimates: