The Grudge had an enormous opening, the third best October start ever, and any way you cut it, you have to give credit to Columbia marketing and what has become an unusual occurrence of open space for a genre film... a positive note that is quickly becoming the trademark of the studio. $23 million for Resident Evil 2: Apieceacrap on September 10, $21 million for The Forgotten on September 24 and now, with a month of basically dead horror/thriller genre space (Shaun of the Dead and Surviving Christmas don’t count), an estimated $40 million for The Grudge on October 22.
If your answer to this (unspoken) question is that Mila Jovavich, Julianne Moore or Sarah Michelle Gellar (recently returning to the Jewish pronunciation) is box office dynamite, you are a goof. But if your answer is that Scarlet Johansson in a tank top and shorts in a horror-tinged thriller will be her first real shot at being the lead of a $75 million-plus box office hit, you would be right, sir.
It is probably not a coincidence that Kill Bill, Vol. 2, Weekend 2 and the opening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre grossed $41 million together on the third weekend of October last year. The Ring & Ghost Ship, opening two Octobers ago to a combined $26 million, probably set up this progression more than any other title(s) did.
But again, give Sony credit. This is the biggest horror opening ever… the second biggest Japanese remake opening ever, led only by Devlin & Emmerich’s Godzilla… the best October chiller-thriller opening ever, but more so, the best without a major franchiseable element by 2.5 times, besting The House on Haunted Hill by more than $20 million and well ahead of such franchise releases as the aforementioned KBV1 and TCM2003.
Meanwhile, Surviving Christmas didn’t and the widened release of I Heart Huckabees was okay, but no better, managing a similar per-screen average as Shall We Dance’s second weekend despite being on one third the screens?
And in one Oscar-cautioning note… Vera Drake went out on 46 screens and overwhelmed no one… box office wise. Same with Being Julia on 26 screens. Yet both lead actresses are still likely to have busy awards seasons. And Sideways moved out on 4 screens to some less success than Huckabees did… yet I think the sense that this is a mainstream movie is growing and when Searchlight take it wide, the results should be a bit better. It is a delicate effort… but probably too delicate.