Only a few days after Hollywood literally blew up, the box office figuratively blew up to the tune of over $172 million, a new single weekend high for 2008. Credit this surge to two new high profile films piggy-backing on the success of other niche fare. "Kung Fu Panda" and "Don't Mess with..." gave families and cognitively deficient people respectively, exactly what they were looking for, while "Indy 4" and "SatC" continued to perform well. This weekend saw all four of these films crack the $20 million mark, which is the first time in a while that the any four films have achieved that feat in the same weekend.
With a fifth place finish in its second week, many people might be ready to move past "The Strangers." Having pulled in over $37 million in nine days however, that would be a mistake. In just this short amount of time, the film has already become the return on investment leader for the year among horror films (and likely in competition for the outright lead). Of course, that's not that hard to do when your budget comes in at only seven figures. But by way of comparison, the second best performing horror film, from an ROI standpoint has been "Cloverfield." The monster flick though, with over 320% return, has nothing on "The Strangers," which, as we can see on the updated Horrors of 2008 spreadsheet now sits at over 400%.
That high bar will be tough to surpass from here on out, where virtually every weekend will see at least one major new release, and many, like this past weekend will see two. This coming weekend should provide a real treat for box office watchers. Both Marvel's "The Incredible Hulk" and M. Night Shyamalyn's "The Happening" will drop this Friday, setting up a potentially competitive dual, but one that "The Happening" is almost assured of losing.
Both of these films also go into this Friday with interesting storylines: Shyamalan has been under some fire (and rightfully so) for not meeting the high expectations that came with his early success, while "Hulk" has the unenviable task of needing to overcome a previous franchise flop less than a decade ago. The early buzz on Marvel's latest opus has actually been quite positive, and with a PG-13 rating, it should see a nice teen-bump. "The Happening" on the other hand sees the "Tweest Master" trying his hand at an R-rated film for the first time in his career. While the previews have been mildly received and there has been little buzz in the horror community for what might ultimately prove to be the biggest budget horror release of the year, "The Happening" could still go a long way toward improving its director's relations with the genre community.
Don't count me among the optimistic.