Box Office Special - Abductions Trump "Box"

If you're wondering why Milla is so startled, it might have have something to do with the fact that her snoozy alien abduction pic posted a surprisingly nice opening. Coming in at $12.5 million, "The Fourth Kind" was strong enough for a fourth place finish in a crowded weekend that included four new films. "Fourth Kind" managed to outperform the other new horror flick of the week, Richard Kelly's "The Box," which slunk home just shy of $8 million.

Overall, it's been a crowded couple of weeks for genre fans, with seven horror films currently in theaters. Just a couple of weeks ago it seemed like audiences may have hit a saturation point, but over the last couple weeks -- and spurred primarily by "Paranormal Activity" -- enthusiasm has surged. Even "The Stepfather," which couldn't crack $12 million on it's opening, is now pushing $30 million after four weeks. It also likely doesn't hurt that we saw some distributors plan effectively around Halloween this year, instead of leaving the holiday to Lionsgate and "Saw VI."

We're creeping closer to the end of the year, and there's only a couple of horror releases left on the schedule. But looking at the tale of the tape, it's hard not to notice how strong a year it has been for the genre in general. With 24 wide releases so far in 2009, we're close to doubling 2008's output. Even more impressive though has been the relative strength of the films on display. In 2008, wide release horror films averaged a Metacritic score of 37.5 and an IMDB score of 5.6. In 2009, those numbers have been 46.5 and 6.6. Not a massive increase, but when you're talking about twice as many films, it's certainly a surprise that they've been, on average, more well received. At the same time, domestic box office returns have also jumped, from an average of $37.7 million in 2008 to $44.1 million this year. With those kinds of returns, expect to see producers continuing to return to the well, which could mean more good stuff for fans. Of course, it could also mean a whole new slate of remakes, so we'll just have to wait and see.

If you'd like to parse the data yourself, check out the Horrors at the Box spreadsheet. More on this banner year in horror in the coming weeks.

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