Posted on Sunday, October 25th, 2009 by Hunter Stephenson
Update: In our box office report below, we mentioned the lack of official sequel plans for Paranormal Activity. Well, Paramount has now released a statement from Chairman Brad Grey via LAT: ”We have the rights on a worldwide basis to do Paranormal 2 and we’re looking to see if that makes some sense.” The word ‘some’ has possibly never been needed less in a sentence. Paranormal Activity‘s boffo, record-setting box office is discussed below. We’ll update on the sequel when and if more details come in. In the meantime, what direction should a sequel take?
It had to happen later than sooner: this weekend Lionsgate‘s Saw franchise took a significant tumble with Saw VI opening to a mere $14.8 million from 3,000 theaters, the lowest opening since 2004′s Saw ($18.2m). The prognosis for the grisly torture series might be gloomier if not for its showdown with Paranormal Activity, the year’s biggest movie phenomenon (no small feat), which haunted the top spot after months of escalating buzz with $22 million. That means it’s up two millie over last weekend, while still playing in less than 2,000 theaters. Not only are number-crunchers getting wet over the idea that this indie pick-up from Paramount, budgeted at $13,000 (yeah, thousand), might gross $100 million domestic, but it’s on track to become the most profitable release in the mountainous studio’s history. Word from the clown is: Executives are filming themselves asleep with permagrins, splayed out on beds covered in dollars gold bars.
All of this PA madness has many thinking that Jigsaw‘s fetishistic days are over, with several Saw fans fearing that he’ll hang himself in a nipple contraption so boggling it makes Mousetrap look like Pogs. Makes for good slash fiction. Have no fear, mysterious Saw lovers: the iconic sicko is slipping on the 3D shades for next year’s Saw VII, and as of now, PA doesn’t have an official sequel. Update: see update above. (And the once-planned remake remains scrapped and more pointless than ever). Though I find the film’s pop culture ubiquity more surprising than The Blair Witch Project‘s, it’s still worth noting that TBWP grossed $140 million domestic back in 1999 and was budgeted at $60,000. The longterm effects of TBWP can still be seen on television and film—with shows like SyFy’s Ghost Hunters and innovative genre films like District 9 utilizing its intense, handheld sensibility. The impact of PA on Hollywood could be far greater in my eyes.
The patient yet hyped roll-out for the film, which targeted college campuses and relied on an event campaign amongst potential filmgoers not unlike a concert, took advantage of online word-of-mouth, sly press releases, and Twitter. And the shrewd filmmaking skills of new writer/director Oren Peli, currently at work on a similarly-styled, alien-centric project entitled Area 51 ($5m budget), could be a game changer. Peli’s reliance on an intimate setting, a universal, enticing hypothetical (…while you were sleeping), and a homegrown, independent approach that bypassed glossy, corporate trends and CGI all coincide with the rise and mainstreaming of online content.
That the film was at one time scheduled for release as a special feature on a bigger-budgeted remake’s DVD is beyond telling. As is its use of unknown actors Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston at a time when many superstars are less interesting and complex in an accelerated marketplace than the tranny bagger at the local market. The endorsement of Steven Spielberg, who it must be said played a vital role in the film’s trajectory and placed his personal stamp via the ending, is further proof that PA could be a real sign of the future.
In other box office news, Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild Things Are got off to a rocky start this weekend, but experienced a bump on Saturday to finish with $14.4 million; still a 55%+ drop from its debut. The numbers suggest that the film may not recoup its estimated $100 million budget, which ballooned with delays, at the domestic box office, but given the positive reception and possible Oscar nominations, the movie can be called a win without any spin control; DVD sales and international box office will only help. This is one of those films that will be shown in highlight reels for 2009, and solidifies Jonze as an uncompromising, visionary filmmaker, now with added mainstream awareness and cachet.
On Saturday, I received my “Chaos Reigns” t-shirt from Mondo Tees, but Lars von Trier‘s Antichrist from IFC Films was only slightly more animated than the infamous fox featured therein, grossing an okay $73,000 on six screens (avg. $12,500) in selected cities. With all the buzz surrounding the film’s enigmatic themes, its title, sexual imagery, Drudge Report headlines, and memes, this doesn’t bode well for a larger roll-out. However, the film will certainly find its way to erudite audiences as a merited and possibly important work in due time.
Bottom of the Box Office Shoe: Finally, Astro Boy was shat out, grossing an estimated and pretty bad $7 million. Not more jpegs and trailers for that piece of garbage, such a relief. I’m not sure who thought John C. Reilly’s face had pull with the nation’s teenagers, but his esoterically titled Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant proves he/she should have waited until T.I. was freed up to cast the film. Based on a popular book series, it grossed a coffin-quiet $6.3 million, but didn’t quite explode in boring, Swank flames like Amelia, with $4 million. Sundays were made for disaster metaphors.