Horror fans got a one week reprieve from shelling out dough at the box office this week. That is unless you live near one of the 11 theaters that screened the Ryan Reynolds Iraq War flick "Buried," which Lionsgate rolled out to a select number of theaters on Friday. The advance word is that a full release is possible in a couple of weeks. Now, with all due warnings about ridiculously small sample size out of the way, let's look at some precedence for how things might play out for "Buried."
On 11 screens, "Buried" managed just over $100k for the weekend. That was good for a fairly modest $9,115/theater. By way of comparison, Oscar-hopeful documentary "Waiting for Superman" opened in four theaters this past weekend, and netted nearly $35k/theater, while Woody Allen, the octogenarian filmmaker and noted pedophile (but seriously I love some Woody Allen movies...), premiered his latest in 6 theaters and brought in around $26k per. Clearly, "Buried" has a little work to do.
But as a genre release with limited exposure thus far, let's play a little more fairly. There are essentially two directions that "Buried" could go from here: one is represented by last year's "Paranormal Activity," which opened in six locations with a per theater average of less than $7k. As you likely have heard, that little ditty went on to gross over $100 million domestically and nearly $200 million worldwide. The other direction is something like the 2007 Spanish film, "The Orphanage," which opened at roughly $12k per on 19 engagements. At its widest, it hit 707 screens and grossed $7 million domestically.
The middle ground for a film like "Buried" is represented by something like "Open Water," a film that opened on 47 screens, eventually made it to over 2700 theaters and grossed $30 million. The bad news for this latest release is that "Buried's" per theater number pales in comparison to the nearly $24k that "Open Water" pulled in its limited run. A great deal will depend on what the distributor reads in the tea leaves and how hard they decide to throw their weight behind the film. The upside is that early critical response has been strong, with the film sitting at 63 on Metacritic, and an 83% on Rottentomatoes (73% Cream of the Crop), so people who are seeing it have good things to say.
The BGH crew may be making it to this one, depending on how the wide release goes. Have you seen it, or do you plan to see it? The better question may be, do you even know what the hell "Buried" is? My guess is that the latter will go a good deal of the way toward answering the former.