While no single picture caught fire this weekend, four new wide releases brought out enough moviegoers to break the pattern of six consecutive weekends with declining box office totals. The range of new movies offered something for every demographic, bringing in a total weekend gross of $85.3M. This compares with $65.2M from the final weekend of September last year, which was led by $22.6M for SMILE in its opening.
Paramount’s animated PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE opened in first place with a 3-day gross of $23.0M. MIGHTY is the sequel to PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE, which opened on 8/20/21 with a $13.1M opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada and went on to earn $40.1M for its total domestic run. Its worldwide gross of $144.3M was even more interesting, producing an excellent 5.6:1 ratio of worldwide box office to production cost ($26M).
Both movies are based on characters from the very successful animated children’s series which has run for more than ten years on Nickelodeon. Its star character is a young boy named Ryder who leads a crew of search and rescue dogs known as PAW Patrol.
Each dog in the pack has a specific profile and skill set modeled on emergency service workers such as a firefighter, police officers, and aviation pilots. The pups live in dog houses that transform into a customized vehicles, a.k.a. “pup mobiles”, and wear high-tech backpacks called “pup packs” which are filled with tools relating to each dog’s special skills.
The plot of PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE develops after a magical meteor crash into the dogs’ town Adventure City, bestowing them with superpowers that transform them into ‘The Mighty Pups’. The movie features the voices of Taraji P. Henson, Kim Kardashian, Chris Rock, James Marsden, and Kristen Bell. Critics have had a mostly favorable view of the movie, giving it an 82% score on Rotten Tomatoes whereas audiences have sung an even higher note with a 93% score.
The release was well-timed to monopolize the young family demographic for seven weeks until TROLLS: BAND TOGETHER opens on 11/17. MIGHTY was created on a budget of $30M, which is very economical for an animated feature. Therefore, it will be quite profitable for Paramount, which makes a strong case for making a third movie in the series.
Lionsgate’s SAW X finished second with $18.0M. It’s the tenth movie of one of Hollywood’s most “utilized” horror franchises. This chapter takes place in the period between SAW and SAW II, with John Kramer (Tobin Bell is back!) traveling to Mexico in search of a cure for his cancer but discovering that the operation is a scam that preys on its desperate and vulnerable patients.
The original SAW movie opened twenty years ago on 10/29/2004 and grossed $18.3M over its first three days. That movie was made on a shoestring budget of $1.2M but went on to gross $56.0M domestically and $103.9 worldwide, making it one of the most profitable movies in history. In fact, the entire SAW franchise has been high-grossing and highly profitable.
Top Ten Horror Movie Franchises by Box Office (Domestic)
HALLOWEEN – Box Office=$624.1M, #Movies=13, Box Office/Movie=$48.0M
IT – Box Office = $540.5M, #Movies = 2, Box Office/Movie=$270.3M
SAW – Box Office=$478.0M, #Movies=9, Box Office/Movie = $53.1M
SCREAM – Box Office=$413.4M, #Movies=5, Box Office/Movie=$82.7M
FRIDAY THE 13TH – Box Office=$387.8M, #Movies=12, Box Office/Movie=$32.3M
NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – Box Office=$370.6M, #Movies=9, Box Office/Movie=$41.2M
THE EXORCIST – Box Office=$331.9M, #Movies=5, Box Office/Movie=$66.4M
THE PURGE – Box Office=$329.7M, #Movies=5, Box Office/Movie=$65.9M
THE CONJURING – Box Office=$305.6M, #Movies=3, Box Office/Movie=$101.9M
THE FINAL DESTINATION – Box Office=$263.5M, #Movies=5, Box Office/Movie=$52.7M
With $478M in the domestic market, the SAW franchise sits in third place among its horror peers, trailing Stephen King’s IT movies by $62M. However, the most recent SAW movies have sputtered, with its last movie SPIRAL earning only $23.2M in its total domestic run. SAW II set the high-water mark for the series in 2005 with an excellent $85M domestic gross.
SAW X has received solid scores on Rotten Tomatoes with critics and audiences weighing in at 85% and 92% respectively. Its opening weekend total of $18M sets it on the road to profitability since it was produced on a solid production budget of $13M.
20th Century’s THE CREATOR opening gross of $14.0M landed it in third place on the weekend box office charts. Written and directed by Gareth Edwards (ROGUE ONE, GODZILLA), THE CREATOR is a sci-fi thriller set in the future amidst a war between humans and robot forces powered by artificial intelligence.
While the movie tells an original story, it’s ironic that AI was the central topic of negotiation in the recently settled dispute between Hollywood’s writers and studios. The movie stars John David Washington (Denzel’s son), Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe, and Alison Janey. Critics have delivered a so-so rating of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes, while audiences have been slightly more positive with a 77% score.
Disney spent $80M to produce the film, which is a somewhat risky bet with the promise of high rewards. If the movie can spark interest and find a large audience, it could become the first in a series of Sci-Fi titles. Unfortunately, it arrived on the same weekend as three other wide releases, and results may also have been held down by the writers’ strike embargo on actors promoting their films.
Perhaps Disney would have done better to push back the release date for THE CREATOR to later in the fall, after studios cleared out the release calendar by postponing some of the highest profile movies on the schedule, including KRAVEN THE HUNTER, DUNE 2, and the as-of-yet unnamed sequel to GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE. While THE CREATOR may still do some business over the weeks ahead, it has started off at a relatively slow pace.
Warner Bros.’ THE NUN II finished in fourth place in its fourth week with a gross of $4.7M and a decline of 45% from last weekend. The horror sequel has done well by finishing first in each of its first three weekends, albeit going up against relatively soft competition. THE NUN II has now grossed $76.8M domestically in its first 24 days, which makes it the most successful movie since Labor Day.
In somewhat of a surprise, THE BLIND from event cinema specialist Fathom Releasing finished in fifth place by generating $4.1M this weekend. With screenings beginning on Thursday, the 4-day total is nearly $5M. Unlike the more typical Fathom offerings which include recorded concerts, ballets, and operas or retro movie re-releases, THE BLIND is a new theatrical release.
The story takes place in Louisiana in the 1960s, with future “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson falling in love and starting a family. However, this domestic bliss is put in jeopardy by his personal demons. Fathom booked the movie at over 1,700 locations, with some playing it for only select showtimes. Audiences seem to eat it up, giving a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
WHERE ARE WE AS OF 9/28
After 38 weeks, the 2023 year-to-date totals are 126% of the amount earned at this point in 2022, and 86% compared with 2019.