Box Office Guru Wrapup: Insidious Soars to Chilling $41M Debut

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Fall moviegoers were in the mood to be scared as the horror sequel Insidious Chapter 2 dominated the North American box office with a spectacular opening that ranked among the best of all-time for its genre. FilmDistrict's follow-up to its 2011 sleeper hit thriller bowed to a stunning $41.1M, according to estimates, averaging a sensational $13,463 from 3,049 locations.

It was the second largest opening ever during the month of September coming in a hair behind the $42.5M of last year's animated comedy Hotel Transylvania. Chapter 2 also generated the second best horror opening of all-time during the August-to-November corridor which is the most popular time of year for that genre due in part to Halloween. The only bigger debut was the $52.6M of another supernatural thriller sequel - 2011's Paranormal Activity 3. For scary movies, first weekend audiences don't get much bigger than this and there was no 3D gimmick to jack up prices.

Many factors contributed to the Insidious success. The first installment was a leggy hit that created a large fan base and the cast was back for the sequel. A PG-13 rating made it commercially-friendly to younger teens who often look for something compelling to see during this back-to-school month. A Friday the 13th release date made sitting in that multiplex extra creepy and director James Wan was red hot coming off of his last film The Conjuring which was a monster hit this summer opening to a similar $41.9M in July. It enjoyed terrific legs, strong word-of-mouth, and currently sits at $136M domestic and an amazing $271M worldwide.

Bad reviews didn't matter as Chapter 2 got the weekend started with a scorching $20.1M opening day on Friday including $1.5M from Thursday night late shows beginning at 10:00pm. Saturday tumbled by a third to $13.5M and Sunday is estimated to fall by 45% to $7.4M. Horror films that use Friday the 13th as their launch date can often make half of their weekend sales in that first day and the latest Insidious was no different. Friday accounted for 49% of its weekend gross.

Produced for a mere $5M, Chapter 2 should shoot ahead of the $54M of its predecessor and become one of the most profitable wide releases of 2013. Studio research showed that the audience was 52% male and 62% under 25 as teens made up a major component. The CinemaScore grade was a B+ which would be decent for most films, but is actually pretty good for the horror genre. The Conjuring scored a notch better with an A- while the year's second biggest fright film, the January supernatural hit Mama, received a B-. With Insidious Chapter 2 and last spring's Olympus Has Fallen, FilmDistrict has had a solid year beating out its peers at the box office.

The witness protection action-comedy The Family debuted in second place with respectable results grossing an estimated $14.5M from 3,091 theaters for a decent $4,691 average. Relativity's R-rated film starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer earned lackluster reviews from critics which helped to dampen the overall potential with its target audience of mature adults. But it did deliver one of the best openings for De Niro in a lead role over the past decade. Luc Besson directed and executive producer Martin Scorsese's name was used in advertising to make moviegoers take the film seriously. A lousy C CinemaScore grade indicates a fast fade ahead.

Last week's number one film Riddick suffered the kind of sophomore tumble expected of a sci-fi sequel with lukewarm word-of-mouth. The Universal release fell 63% to an estimated $7M pushing the ten-day total to $31.3M. It was a bit larger than the 61% crash that its predecessor, 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick, experienced in its second weekend in June of that year. Produced for $38M, the new Riddick should finish its domestic run with a mediocre $45M.

A pair of leggy hits from August reached milestones this weekend. If estimates hold, Forest Whitaker's The Butler will cross the $100M mark on Sunday night. The Weinstein Co. release declined by 34% to an estimated $5.6M spending its fifth frame in the top five and is now the distributor's fifth film to break the nine-digit domestic mark. The other four all went on to earn Oscar nominations for Best Picture - Inglourious Basterds, The King's Speech, Django Unchained, and Silver Linings Playbook. Meanwhile, the Warner Bros. sleeper hit We're the Millers became the first live-action film of 2013 to remain in 3,000+ theaters for six weeks. That marks exceptional staying power especially given how competitive the marketplace has been over the last month. The pot smuggling comedy slipped 30% to an estimated $5.4M for $131.6M to date and will soon become Jennifer Aniston's highest-grossing film in a lead role.

The Spanish-language hit Instructions Not Included dropped 48% to an estimated $4.3M in its third round boosting the cume for Lionsgate up to $26.6M. Disney's animated flick Planes held up well again slipping only 26% to an estimated $3.1M for $83M to date.

Sony released a new fan cut of the boy band concert doc One Direction: This Is Us and saw the title slip by 41% to an estimated $2.4M giving the teen girl magnets $26.9M to date. Studio stablemate Elysium followed with an estimated $2.1M, down 35%, and a total of $88.4M. Rounding out the top ten was the fantasy offering Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters which slipped 25% to an estimated $1.8M putting Fox at $62M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $87.1M which was up 34% from last year when Resident Evil: Retribution debuted at number one with $21.1M; and up 5% from 2011 when The Lion King 3D opened in the top spot with $30.2M.

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