Inside Pulse Box Office Report: The Last Exorcism Attempts to Exorcise #1

The power of Christ compels you to see The Last Exorcism.

Don’t tell Lionsgate that August is the end of the summer blockbuster season. With the release of the pseudo-documentary horror flick The Last Exorcism and Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables, the studio has dominated the month; and it didn’t cost much. Lionsgate acquired the horror movie for just a million and the other for $20 million. Exorcism finished the weekend with $21.3 million, while Stallone’s salute to the action hero – in all its B-movie glory – is headed to $100 million domestically.

The only question is is if The Last Exorcism did enough to finish as the top film for the weekend. It seems that Screen Gems’ Takers was neck and neck with the horror movie, which Lionsgate did a little bait-and-switch with the audience. The ads featured Eli Roth’s (Hostel, Cabin Fever) name prominently, and it looked like a straight-up horror movie, not another Blair Witch Project – only with better production equipment.

Screen Gems doesn’t bring out many films a year. Sometimes it can be as many as six (as it was in 2008) or as little as one (which was the case in 2009). This year, this branch of Sony Pictures will have at least two, with Dear John being the other one. They produce mainstream films on the cheap and with $21 million over the weekend, Takers has already made back its production costs. That’s right, a production need not break the bank to get the likes of Paul Walker, Anakin Skywalker, a rapper or two, and a few respectable thesps in Idris Elba, Laurence Fishburne, and Matt Dillon.

Taking it on the chin its third weekend of release was The Expendables. It may have got booted from its #1 spot, but it is far from out. It may be coasting at $82 million now, but overseas it is going to explode. Watch, it will happen. When most of the funding came through by selling a chunk of the overseas rights, the action movie was guaranteed a profit. Now there’s sequel talk which will be please many action fans, including most of the staff of Inside Pulse Movies. (You know who you are.)

So what happened to Eat Pray Love? Do people jut not care about Julia Roberts as a lead actress or was the material only appealing to ladies who loved the book and decided this was the only movie they were going to see all year. It’s $60 million gross so far is not a major disappointment – that would likely go to a Universal Pictures release this year – but I’m sure that some of the suits at Sony Pictures can’t be happy with its performance. It looks like it is destined to be in the “New Classics” rotation on TNT.

Audiences who are craving comedy seem to be torn. The unfortunate casualty is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which left the top ten this weekend. It seems that the go-to comedy for filmgoers needing a laugh is The Other Guys, the latest hit from the team of Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. Most know what to expect from Ferrell’s brand of comedy, but when he’s working with Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) it’s more hot than cold.

Thankfully, Vampires Suck is having a quick death, but it wasn’t expected to have a long life anyway in the weekly box office. It’s a quick cash grab for Fox, but the studio has to live with them every time it calculates totals for the year. At the very least any cash gained can go to the acquisition of something better.

Proving that audiences wish the summer would never end, the dream thriller Inception has the smallest audience drop in the top ten once again as it inches closer to making $300 million domestically. Overseas, it has has already brought in $384 million. If Warner Bros. had to weigh the future of Lottery Ticket over Christopher Nolan’s film getting to 300 mill., it would probably go with Inception. It may not get there, but in foreign markets it could have the legs to make $700 million overall. In its seventh week of the release, the film is outpacing those that are only two weeks in their run. This includes Nanny McPhee Returns and The Switch – two movies we wanted to review but couldn’t find them – and Piranha 3D – a film we covered because it had the added enticer of boobies in 3D. We have standards, after all.

And about Piranha 3D. The horror flick has yet to make back its production budget, but after its $10 million opening last weekend, a sequel was greenlit. Though, in its favor, that film and the upcoming Jackass 3D seem to embrace the joke that is 3D and how it its implementation has run amuck in Hollywood. (Over the next two years filmgoers can expect upwards of 60 different movies utilizing some form of 3-D technology.)

Billed as Avatar: Special Edition, the biggest film of all time couldn’t get many to hand over money to see it again. On 812 screens it pulled in another $4 million. On one hand it had the best per-screen average of any film playing on less than 1,000 screens. Maybe those who were thinking about seeing it again read my piece on the upcoming DVD/BD release which will have an extra 16 minutes of footage. Yeah, I’m sure that was it.

Now on the arthouse scene, Get Low added another 424 screens and with the expansion brought in $1.7 million. Considering its $7 million production budget, it would need an Oscar season re-release to make up the difference. There was only one indie debut and it was Mesrine: Killer Instinct, which I declared “France’s answer to Public Enemies. It pulled in $150k on 28 screens. In its third week Animal Kingdom made another $135k at 39 locations. Well, better make that 38 locations, now that the Angelika Film Center of Houston (in my neck of the woods) closed over the weekend. That right there is why you need to visit arthouse, if your community has one. As it is now, the largest arthouse near me, is my home library.

1. The Last Exorcism – $21.3 million
2. Takers – $21 million
3. The Expendables – $9.5 million ($82 million)
4. Eat Pray Love – $7 million ($61 million)
5. The Other Guys – $6.6 million ($99 million)
6. Vampires Suck – $5.3 million ($28 million)
7. Inception – $5.1 million ($654 million worldwide)
8. Nanny McPhee Returns – $4.7 million ($17 million)
9. The Switch – $4.6 million ($16 million)
10. Piranha 3D – $4.3 million ($18 million)

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