For the third straight weekend there's been a new horror themed release, and for the third straight weekend genre fans have shown up. Most of the box office headlines have been about the continued success of a certain portly mall law enforcement official. But the story that is flying under the radar thus far is the fact that nearly one month in, horror has been a strong performer in each of the first three weekends. The first two saw "The Unborn" and "My Bloody Valentine" finish third in the weekend standings, and this weekend, "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" — a genre sequel, no less — finish second. In each case, the film's turned out over $7k per screen.
In 2008, genre fans got a similar early smorgasbord of choices: January (and the first weekend of February) saw the release of "One Missed Call," "Cloverfield," "Untraceable" and "The Eye." The difference between that run and this year's is that other than "Cloverfield," 2008's offerings were marginal successes. "One Missed Call" had the 2nd best per screen opening at $5,585. In fact, even with "Cloverfield's" impressive opening, 2009 could top 2008 with only about $15 million from this week's opening, "The Uninvited." That's certainly not a foregone conclusion — only 6 of 14 horror films in 2008 topped that opening weekend — but with the early successes we've seen from "The Unborn" and "Rise of the Lycans," it's a definite possibility.
The other issue, of course, is that "Uninvited" is a remake of a relatively well-regarded Japanese film, "The Tale of Two Sisters." Last year, Americans were "treated" to four remakes of Asian horror films — I say treated euphemistically because each was pretty mediocre. They were however, quite predictable at the box office with an average opening of $11.6 million ("One Missed Call," $12.5 mil; "The Eye," $12.4; "Shutter," $10.4; and "Mirrors," $11.2). Personally, I'm holding out hope for "The Uninvited." It's got Elizabeth Banks, who is excellent, and should be doubly so as an evil stepmother. Throw in David Strathairn and a couple of young lovelies, and you've got something I'll spend money on. Only time will tell if other movie goers feel the same way.