By Sarah Sluis
Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, giving festive audiences two extra days to get in the mood with Saw 3D (2,808 theatres). Though holiday parties may cut into ticket sales, this year Halloween arrives after the profitable Friday and Saturday evenings, which should lift grosses beyond where they were the last two years. The total box office for Saw movies actually peaked with the second installment, but has remained profitable, and the added premium for 3D screens could push this film into the $20 million range. However, since Paranormal Activity 2 premiered to $40 million last week, a 50% decline could still put it ahead of Saw 3D.
For specialty audiences, the third installment of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, will unspool in 123 theatres. Critic Maitland McDonagh was glad the series was over. "It's great to see Lisbeth [the heroine] vindicated (and no, that's not a spoiler), but getting there is a long, tedious slog." The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has currently amassed $10 million stateside, and its sequel $7.5 million, so this suspense thriller should continue the successful streak for the Swedish-language trilogy.
Hilary Swank's turn as a determined woman trying to win her brother's freedom in Conviction will expand to 565 theatres in its third week. The true-life drama has been struggling to find a hold at the box office, so this expansion will either lift it slightly or confirm it as Swank's second miss in a row, after last year's Amelia.
Indie audiences can check out Monsters (2 theatres), which "accomplishes the not-insignificant task of creating a believable alternate reality for [director Gareth Edwards'] low-budget, low-key science-fiction story," according to critic Ethan Alter. While he felt the director succeeded in making a world that felt "lived-in," the two lead actors left him cold. "Had Edwards taken as much care crafting these characters as he did the world they exist in, Monsters may have been a cult classic in the making instead of a mildly interesting missed opportunity," he speculated.
The top-notch cast of James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo and Twilight-er Kristen Stewart assemble for Welcome to the Rileys (10 theatres). Gandolfini plays a grief-stricken man who befriends a young prostitute (Stewart) in New Orleans, a bold move that lifts his wife (Leo) out of agoraphobia.
On Monday, the 2010 Halloween box office will be weighed against the spooky nights of years past, and I'll see if any of the specialty releases were able to break out of the pack.