Box Office Special - Put the Kiddies to Bed, The Strangers Dropped

It's been a month and a half, but horror was back in theaters around the country this week. And as we all probably suspected, audiences turned out in droves. Behind some positive buzz and catchy, creepy marketing, "The Strangers" pulled in $20 million, good enough for third on the weekend behind "Coitus in Urban Environs" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of a Bunch of Crazy Alien Conspiracy Whackos."

Looking at the Horrors of 2008 spreadsheet though, we get a better sense of just how well "The Strangers" performed. The weekend total behind the home invasion flick was virtually identical to the bloodless, joyless success that was "Prom Night." The latter film however, placed first on its weekend—a weekend where theaters in general did literally half as much business as they did this past weekend. "The Strangers" also managed to out perform nearly every 2008 horror release in terms of per screen average, with over $8,300 per. Only the event known as "Cloverfield" did better.

"The Strangers" likely benefited from some well-thought out timing on the part of the film's distributors. The only other new film to drop this week was SJP & Co.'s fashion extravaganza, not exactly a strong performer in the horror fan demographic. Filling out the rest of most theaters' slates was more family oriented fantasy, action and adventure. Again, the Indy, Aslan, and Speed contingent was probably not siphoning off too many potential "Strangers" fans. Beyond being the first horror release in a while, "The Strangers" was also one of only three R-rated films to place in the top 10 this week ("SATC" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" at 1 and 10, respectively, were the other two). So for us adults, who sometimes like to see and hear things that may be inappropriate for children, there weren't a hole lot of options.

Next weekend is also looking pretty favorable for Bryan Bertino's little thriller, for all the reasons I mentioned above. The only new releases on the calendar, "Kung Fu Panda" and "Don't Mess with Adam Sandler's Pathetic Career Choices," shouldn't deter anyone looking for a good scare. Unless you like your scares from horrifically unfunny gay-panic or fat animal jokes, in which case, you should be all set next weekend.

On a brief side note, Indy's 2nd place finish may have been better than my previous speculation (though not by too much). It bears noting however, that Indy was no week 2 super-star. The old man dropped by 54 percent from last weekend's three day total; not awful, but certainly portentous of a steeper decline than those behind the film would like to see. Also interesting is that Indy continues to fare well outside the U.S. The 55 percent of Indy's worldwide revenue that comes from foreign markets is a mirror image of "Iron Man," which is drawing only 45 percent of its world total from outside the U.S. It would seem that non-U.S. movie goers have a much higher tolerance for filmmakers and actors collectively coasting behind previous successes.

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