Weekend Box Office (October 31 - November 2, 2014)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Halloween madness put a curse on the North American box office which sunk to a seven-week low with all wide releases failing to reach $11M for the weekend or a $4,000 average. Two films fought a close battle for the number one spot, but in the end newcomer Nightcrawler was edged out by horror holdover Ouija.

Last weekend's top film - the supernatural thriller Ouija - was the leader again with $10.7M, according to final numbers from its distributor Universal. The PG-13 spookfest is now up to $34.8M and counting and slipped only 46% in its second weekend which included Halloween. A final of $50M or more seems likely which would be ten times its production cost.

Jake Gyllenhaal attracted a mediocre debut for his critically acclaimed crime journalism thriller Nightcrawler which opened close behind in second with $10.4M from 2,766 theaters for a mild $3,775 average. The R-rated pic won raves from reviewers, however what film critics love often differs from what regular moviegoers want to pay to see. The Open Road release earned a lackluster B- grade from CinemaScore so ticket buyers were not too impressed. But for Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler's opening weekend was in the same range as some of his other films where he is the only major commercial selling point. They generally only open in the $10-15M range.

On Sunday, both distributors reported a tie with each giving a weekend estimate of $10.9M with Universal being much closer to projections. Many films held up well this weekend, especially kidpics, but it was the calm before the storm. On Friday, the holiday movie season kicks off with a potent double feature of Christopher Nolan's sci-fi drama Interstellar and the Disney toon Big Hero 6 based on the Marvel character. Together, the tentpoles are expected to pull in over $100M in ticket sales next weekend and shove aside fall leftovers.

With hardly any competition from new films, Brad Pitt's tank film Fury dropped 34% to $8.8M in its third weekend. Sony has grossed $60.2M so far. The missing-wife thriller Gone Girl became director David Fincher's highest grossing film ever and landed in fourth place in its fifth weekend with $8.5M. Off a slender 23%, the Fox title has now amassed $136.3M and may end its domestic run in the $150-160M range.

Studio stablemate The Book of Life followed close behind with $8.2M, off just 18%, for a new total of $40.4M. Also holding up well, especially for a Keanu Reeves action film, was John Wick which dropped 45% to $8M. Lionsgate has taken in $27.5M to date and looks headed for a $45M domestic finish.

Audiences continued to flock to the hit indie comedy St. Vincent starring Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy which virtually matched its gross from last weekend with $7.2M, off a scant 7%. The Weinstein Co. added 270 new locations boosting the theater count by 12% but the average of $2,832 was still solid dipping by only 17% from last weekend. That's a terrific hold thanks mostly to encouraging word-of-mouth. Cume now sits at $19M.

Also showing much strength with moviegoers was Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day which eased by a slim 9% to $6.6M for a sturdy $53.7M to date. The Judge followed with $3.4M, off 23%, giving Warner Bros. $39.5M so far. The monster movie Dracula Untold rounded out the Halloween weekend top ten with $3M, down 32%, putting Universal at $52.9M.

The Nicole Kidman thriller Before I Go To Sleep flopped instantly with a weak opening weekend of only $1.8M from 1,935 locations for a flimsy $953 average. Clarius Entertainment saw mixed reviews plus could not compete in a crowded marketplace filled with better options for the target audience of mature adults. Kidman has not anchored a box office hit on her own in nearly a decade.

Lionsgate took a chance and re-released the horror hit Saw on Halloween day for its tenth anniversary, but failed to attract any business stumbling to the worst opening of 2014 for any film going out in 2,000+ theaters. The iconic torture porn flick attacked 2,063 locations but grossed a puny $650,051 for a horrendous $315 average. The brand is no longer very relevant and the film has been widely available on other platforms for years so there was nothing new that the theatrical re-release brought to the table. Sure the gorefest has already been made, but costs for marketing and new digital prints will not be recouped by this re-release. Most re-releases in recent years, including 3D upgrades, have struggled to make much of a dent at the box office.

In the specialty marketplace, only one film continues to make a lot of noise. Oscar hopeful Birdman expanded in its third round from 50 to 231 locations and grossed $2.4M for a strong $10,348 average in 12th place nationwide. It was the best average for any film in release right now. With $4.9M in the bank and plenty more to come, the Fox Searchlight release is still growing and reaching new markets establishing itself as a major awards contender early in the kudos season. Next weekend will see it fly to nearly 450 theaters nationwide.

The top ten films grossed $74.8M which was down 36% from last year when Ender's Game opened at number one with $27M; and down 37% from 2012 when Wreck-It Ralph debuted in the top spot with $49M. However, Halloween did not fall on either of those weekend periods.

Compared to projections, Nightcrawler opened very close to my $12M forecast while Before I Go To Sleep was also near my $3M prediction. Saw came in well below my $5M projection.

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Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Interstellar and Big Hero 6 both open.


Last Updated: November 4, 2014 at 3:50PM ET

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