Tuesday, September 17, 2013

James Wan Conjures Up the Top Box Office Spot for a Second Time

Scott looks back at a busy weekend that not only had two new wide releases in the theatres, but also had the wrap up of one of the most prestigious film festivals, TIFF.

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For the second time in two months director James Wan has had a movie enjoy an opening weekend north of $40 million.  While that accomplishment is quite impressive, what is more impressive is the fact that both movies were horrors, which don’t often enjoy such success.  While the Toronto International Film Festival closed its doors, Wan was ending the pre-Oscar season with a bang with Insidious Chapter 2.  Also opening this weekend was the comedy The Family starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfieffer, which exceeded my predictions and came solidly in second place.

Opening a horror film on Friday the 13th is never a bad idea, and it really paid off for Insidious Chapter 2, which grossed $40 million at the box office.  Wan’s last movie, The Conjuring, set a record for the highest opening weekend for an original supernatural horror and he almost set the record for the highest September opening weekend of all time, falling short of Hotel Transylvania by $2 million dollars.  The success for the sequel to the 2011 Insidious was helped by the popularity of The Conjuring, an ad campaign that got audiences excited, and a near freakish amount of buzz on Twitter. 

While the opening weekend was very solid, it is appearing that Insidious Chapter 2 will be a legacy movie for Wan.  The Conjuring had scored an impressive 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Insidious Chapter 2 was unable to keep that pace as it seemed to land in the middle ground for a lot of people and is currently sitting at 38%.  While Insidious held well with audiences (it took four weeks before it saw a week to week drop of more than 30%), it is doubtful that the sequel will have the same lasting appeal.  After having a great opening night of $20 million, it suffered a significant drop of 34% on Saturday and 50% on Sunday.  There is a good chance that it will face a drop of 60% in its second weekend.  While I may be sounding down on its chances for its continued success, the main fact for us to remember is that it opened to $40 million on a budget of $5 million and stood as a reminder to the big budget studios that large production budgets are not the only way to make money.  The way Wan has been talking in interviews, this may be his last horror film as he is looking to transition his career starting with directing Fast and Furious 7.

Landing in second place in the box office was The Family, a movie about a mob family in witness protection in France that opened to $14 million.  For some, that number may seem like a very poor weekend considering the movie has Robert De Niro in it.  However, De Niro has had a number of movies suffer from horrible opening weekends (back in April, The Big Wedding only grossed $7 million opening weekend) so this movie shows there is still some drawing value for the legendary actor.  It also helped that the cast was bolstered by Tim Burton’s Catgirl herself, Michelle Pfieffer and Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones.

As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Toronto International Film Festival wrapped up this past weekend and left us with lots of interesting things to talk about.  We got an instance of a blogger getting frustrated with texting during the press and industry screening of The Sacrament and called 911 to report it.  This came after complaining to organizers, but the rules of no cell phones do not apply to press and industry screenings and nor should they.  If you are in town to buy the distribution rights to a movie and want to beat other people to the punch, you need to be in direct contact with your co-workers.  In a setting such as this, it is an exhibition but also a market place.  I am all for no cell phones in theatres, but during an industry screening with possible distribution rights on the line I can understand the importance of the device.

More relevant than the awful misuse of essential emergency services, we got a better understanding of what movies are the true powerhouses of the year.  Gravity, which opens in a few weeks and stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, gained a lot of attention although it was outshined by 12 Years a Slave, which won the People’s Choice Award for best picture.  On the other end of the success spectrum, August: Osage County ended up falling short of expectations and now seems to be out of the Oscar chit chat.  Nicolas Cage gained a lot of attention for his performance in Joe, showing once again that he is indeed a talented actor if given the right roles.  And lastly, Matthew McConaughey’s performance in Dallas Buyer’s Club has him as a front runner for best actor and is having a career year with roles in Mud, Dallas Buyer’s Club, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

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