The box office cooled off a bit this week, which shouldn't come as a surprise. The "Watchmen" build-up had reached almost intolerable levels going into last weekend, and movie goers and industry types all probably just needed a weekend off from feeding at the trough of hype. There were a trio of new releases though, including the "Last House on the Left" remake, which became the sixth horror release of 2009. And while nothing blew up or shattered any expectations, there were some strong showings that are worthy of recognition.
As we're a horror outlet, "Last House on the Left" is surely the topic closest to our hearts. This updated version, directed by Dennis Iliadis and produced by original helmer Wes Craven, had a fairly sizable marketing push behind it -- if prevalence of TV ads and subway posters can be any guide. Working against it though was some obviously dark subject matter. While the studio was pretty upfront about the basic storyline (the tagline that ran on most posters: "If Bad People Hurt Someone You Love, How Far Would You Go to Hurt Them Back?"), I'd be really interested to know how aware most viewers were of the nature of the "hurting" that went on. On the weekend "Last House" cleared $14.6 million, which is a nice total for an R-rated horror, but it's Friday total ($5.6 million) was actually slightly higher than Saturday ($5.3 million). Compare that to the family offering of the week, "Race to Witch Mountain," which cleared $6.7 million on Friday and then $11 million on Saturday. For horror comparisons, "Friday the 13th" had a similar, if not steeper, fall-off from Friday to Saturday, whereas "The Uninvited" did slightly better on Saturday. As with most movies, the judging will really begin next weekend when we'll see how audiences react now that the cat has been let out of the bag -- the cat in this case being a pretty brutal rape scene.
Not boding well for "Last House's" continued success is the fact that next week we'll get a look at the latest disaster film from "I, Robot" director Alex Proyas, "Knowing." Starring Nic Cage, no less! Even if it's awful, which, let's face it, it's probably going to be, "Knowing" will still suck a lot of the air out of the room, which could be a negative factor for "Last House." The new R-rated comedy "I Love You, Man" and the Julia Roberts/Clive Owen vehicle "Duplicity" might both also siphon off some potential viewers. In any event, movies will have to compete a lot harder to draw attention next weekend.
Looking at the rest of the top five, the other major storyline to keep an eye on, other than "Witch Mountain's" first place finish, is the steep fall off of "Watchmen." I addressed this last week, and in many ways, what we're seeing this week represents a worst case scenario. The 2nd week fall off for "Watchmen," while not nearly as dramatic as "Friday the 13th" is in the same neighborhood as "X-Men 3." "Watchmen" still managed to hang on for second place, but the ceiling continues to fall for the expectations on the film.