The weekend just before Halloween is a recipe for a horror movie in Hollywood. With no upcoming movies from the Saw series nor the presence of a Paranormal Activity film, this slot was left wide open for a newcomer. Taken up eagerly by Ouija, a horror movie based around the “spirit board” itself. Universal Pictures had been initially planning a $100 million budget movie, but then in stepped production studios Platinum Dunes and Blumhouse Productions, the masters of low budget horror movies, and the budget of Ouija came down to a mere $5 million. Now that is how you make a horror movie work! Against this low budget, the movie grossed $20 million in the domestic market, a strong opening indeed as horror movies have hardly flourished this year, though well behind Annabelle ($37.1 million) and The Purge: Anarchy ($29.8 million). Horror movies are usually heavily front-loaded. On top of that, Ouija has got some horrible reviews (10% score on Rottentomatoes!). So we should see its subsequent weekend earnings drop quite sharply. Despite that, Ouija would easily be termed as a hit for the studios, and yet another feather in the growing cap of Platinum Dunes and Blumhouse Productions.
The other wide release over the weekend was the action flick John Wick starring Keanu Reeves. It opened with $14.2 million over the weekend in North America, which is a decent start for what should be a modest budget film (I have been unable to find the production budget estimates for the movie). Keanu Reeves’ appeal at the box-office has diminished quite sharply since his Matrix days, and that makes the opening of John Wick look all the more appealing. It is the third best opening for a Reeves-centric movie in the past decade behind The Day The Earth Stood Still ($30.5 million) and Constantine ($29.8 million). The reviews of John Wick have also been fantastic, as a 86% score on Rottentomatoes would indicate (the movie has quite a high score on Imdb as well), and that may give this movie a good holdover in the coming weeks. A semi-hit it could very well turn out to be, by the end of its theatrical run (though I am assuming the production budget should not have been more than $20 million). Could this be the beginning of the return of Keanu Reeves? Too early to say, but I do hope so.
Last week’s Fury took a 45% fall in its second weekend as its domestic tally moves to $46 million. Earnings from the international markets is what I am waiting for, as that would decide this movie’s financial success and also give an idea of the extent of global appeal that Brad Pitt still carries. Fury is after all not a low budget movie; made at $68 million, the studios would be looking at north of $200 million worldwide to claim success. The international run is still pending though, so we just wait and watch.
Interestingly there has been a flurry of R-rated movies released in recent weeks with a middle-aged (or a bit more older) known actor in the thick of things, and the target audience skewed a bit older too. Each one appears to be on a path of moderate to high level of success as their domestic openings would suggest — Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer ($34.1 million), Ben Affleck’s Gone Girl ($37.5 million), Brad Pitt’s Fury ($23.7 million) and Keanu Reeves’ John Wick ($14.2 million). Maybe the latter ones suffered a bit because the initial ones already filled the appetite of the target audience. Nonetheless, it has been an interesting period for these serious-toned movies.
Here are the top 5 weekend earners at the US box-office (estimates):
1. Ouija ($20.0 million)
2. John Wick ($14.2 million)
3. Fury ($13.0 million; second weekend)
4. Gone Girl ($11.1 million; fourth weekend)
5. The Book of Life ($9.8 million; second weekend)