After the doldrums of September, October shows some promise for livelier returns. Between critical darling The Social Network, uplifting period drama Secretariat, the return of the Jackass crew, and dueling horror sequels Paranormal Activity 2 and Saw 3D, there's no shortage of potentially popular titles. Still, October 2009's record gross of $693.4 million will be tough to top.
The Social Network, one of the most anticipated movies of the Fall, leads the way in the first weekend of October. Distributor Sony Pictures' marketing campaign has targeted younger moviegoers with unavoidable character-focused, pop music-infused commercials on MTV, Comedy Central and elsewhere while cultivating adult interest with "best movie of the year" acclaim from a handful of critics. This strategy has appeared to pay off, as over 34 percent of Box Office Mojo readers voted The Social Network as their top choice to see in October.
Dueling R-rated horror movies Let Me In and Case 39 also open Oct. 1. Let Me In, which is a remake of well-regarded Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In ($2.1 million), is the second feature from Matt Reeves, the director of Cloverfield. While Cloverfield was relatively successful, the real advantage for Let Me In is that it's being released at the height of the vampire craze. This should help give it an edge over Case 39, which has been shelved for well over a year and is receiving a comparably light marketing push from distributor Paramount Vantage.
Secretariat, Life as We Know It, and My Soul to Take open in the second weekend of October, and it appears the horse-racing drama has the advantage at this point. Distributor Walt Disney Pictures is high on the movie, holding sneak previews at around 800 theaters on Oct. 2. Add in the easy comparisons to Seabiscuit and The Blind Side (Diane Lane as this year's Sandra Bullock), and Secretariat seems like a safe bet.
Life As We Know It also has sneak previews scheduled on Oct. 2, though its box office hopes are a tougher to call what with Katherine Heigl playing her typical uptight character opposite Josh Duhamel's laid-back bachelor. Heigl's schtick didn't save Killers ($47.1 million), and Life As We Know It's trailers and commercials suggest generic baby comedy. My Soul to Take's marketing also seems plagued by unoriginality, as its primary selling point has thus far been that it's director Wes Craven's first movie in the 3D illusion. Also on Oct. 8, Buried is scheduled for nationwide expansion on Oct. 8, though its extent is likely contingent on its performance during its two-week limited run.
Following the successes of Jackass: The Movie ($64.3 million) and Jackass: Number Two ($72.8 million), the guys are back on Oct. 15 with Jackass 3-D. Commercials promise more of the same antics, except this time in the third dimension. 3D alone isn't much of a selling point, but anticipation among young males should propel the movie to solid earnings anyway. Star studded comic book adaptation Red also opens Oct. 15, but it can't count on its relative obscure source material to generate interest. However, the premise of Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman as black ops agents forced out of retirement could carry the day.
Paranormal Activity 2 and Hereafter, both dealing with the supernatural, open on Oct. 22. Besides a brief-yet-spooky trailer, Paranormal Activity 2 has received next to no promotion so far. Still, it has an advantage based on Paranormal Activity's popularity (it made a whopping $107.9 million last year) and how it appears to avoid changing the formula too much, which was one of the reasons Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 tanked. In comparison, Hereafter seems to have the disadvantages of a mournful subject matter, a star (Matt Damon) whose last three movies have failed to break $40 million and a director (Clint Eastwood) who hasn't made a successful movie that he hasn't acted in since Mystic River in 2003.
Saw 3D is the only new nationwide release on the last weekend of October. Coming off the disappointing Saw VI ($27.7 million), producers opted for a two-fold strategy to revive the franchise. To begin, this is the first entry in 3D, and the most recent trailer focuses entirely on that fact. What's likely to be more convincing, though, is that they are declaring it the last entry in the Saw series: as was the case with The Final Destination and other horror franchises, this can be a misleading advertisement, but it still manages to spark additional interest.