Crowded October Box Office Adds 'Witch Hunter', 'Paranormal 6', 'Jem' & More 'Jobs'
This weekend sees four new wide releases hitting theaters, plus the nationwide expansion of Steve Jobs, all on the heels of last weekend's four new releases, making for an October box office bottleneck. Goosebumps looks like a solid holdover, hoping to repeat at #1. In its way is The Last Witch Hunter, which should top the weekend, taking advantage of the timeframe and Vin Diesel's Furious fame. Additional new releases include the latest installment in the Paranormal Activity franchise, which finds Paramount taking a shot at a new release strategy while Rock the Kasbah and Jem and the Holograms feast on the scraps.

Starting with last weekend's #1, Goosebumps opened with $23.6 million, but more importantly carried an "A" CinemaScore. With Halloween just around the corner and a CinemaScore that suggests positive word of mouth, expect this children's horror to holdover well with a 34% drop and a $15.5 million second weekend. Should The Last Witch Hunter fail to generate any excitement that could be enough for first place, but I don't think that will be the case.

The Last Witch Hunter finds Vin Diesel playing Kaulder, a cursed medieval warrior fighting modern day witches in the streets of New York City. It looks like a cross between Underworld, Dracula Untold and Seventh Son. While it's missing Kate Beckinsale in leather and Jeff Bridges' continued Rooster Cogburn grumbling, these kinds of films tend to do moderately well in this time frame.

Seasonal comparisons include the likes of the Resident Evil franchise, which has seen its sequels released in September to the tune of $21-26 million. Additionally, the first Underworld opened with $21 million back in 2003 and Dracula Untold opened with $23.5 million just last year. Similarly themed movies such as Season of the Witch and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters opened with $10.6 million and $19.6 million respectively, though both were January releases.

Then there's the question of what Vin Diesel brings to the table. Outside of the Fast and Furious franchise and his voice work in Guardians of the Galaxy, his only other release in the last eight years is the nine-years-later sequel Riddick, which saw poor reviews and opened with $19 million in September 2013. Can this potential franchise starter (a sequel is already said to be in the works) match that number or perhaps surpass it?

Witch Hunter carries a budget reported anywhere between $70-90 million and the reviews haven't been kind, though this doesn't seem like a film that would be hurt by critical reception. History points to a #1 finish with $17-21 million, and I'm going just a shade under the high side with a $20 million prediction. My gut and the crowded marketplace tells me it very well could finish lower, but I can't ignore history or Diesel's fame thanks to the Furious franchise.

All told, if you're looking for a comparison on Friday and Saturday morning, Dracula Untold scored $1.3 million from Thursday preshows and an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences. We'll see how Last Witch Hunter stacks up to those figures.

Expanding into 2,493 theaters this weekend after a solid limited run that has seen Steve Jobs rack up $2.5 million so far, the Oscar hopeful will now open itself up to a nationwide release. Expect a 600% increase from last weekend, similar to what Sicario enjoyed in its wide expansion, but considering Jobs is playing a bit behind Sicario that only means a $10.6 million weekend.

In the same financial vicinity, Jobs will find itself competing with The Martian in its fourth weekend as well as Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, the sixth film in the Paranormal Activity franchise. All three should end up in the $10-12 million range for the weekend.

The story behind Paranormal Activity is an interesting one as it's the first film Paramount is approaching with a new release model. Releasing in 1,656 theaters this weekend, the studio will push the film to VOD once it falls below 300 theaters, sharing a portion of the VOD proceeds up to 90 days after its theatrical release with participating theaters. In this case that includes AMC, National Amusements and Alamo Drafthouse.

With many theater chains refusing to show the film as a result of Paramount's decision, this means Ghost Dimension will screen in 42% of the 2,867 theaters Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones played in last January, opening with $18.3 million. Ghost Dimension is carrying the highest budget of any Paranormal Activity film to date (said to be in the mid-teens), but it will have the benefit of higher ticket prices, both as a result of inflation and the fact this is the first film in the franchise being released in 3D. Screenings begin tonight, October 22, at 7:00 p.m. and we'll serve as an immediate indication as to how this one looks to perform as the The Marked Ones brought in $1.2 million from Thursday preshows last year.

The last two Paranormal films showed dwindling opening weekend results from one installment to the next. Marked Ones opened with 36% less than Paranormal Activity 4, which opened 44% lower than Paranormal Activity 3. It's not a franchise that's dead, but it is clearly fading, and with fewer theaters for this latest release, expect the trend to continue. I'm predicting a $12.4 million opening this weekend, signaling another 32% drop from the previous installment.

Most interesting will be studio transparency when it comes to Ghost Dimension's VOD results as they will be attempting the same release strategy with Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse next weekend.

Along with expanding Steve Jobs this weekend, Universal is also releasing Jem and the Holograms into 2,413 theaters. Made for a reported $5 million, the micro-budget feature is directed by Jon M. Chu and reimagines the '80s Hasbro animated television series. Studio expectations are low for this one and I'm going to be going even lower. Fans trashed the first trailer almost immediately and subsequent trailers didn't help matters any. So, without support from the original fanbase who's left?

Given the budget, my predicted $4.3 million opening isn't a disaster, but don't be surprised if it goes even lower and fails to make the top ten. Unless Jem fans decide to "hate watch" it, which is entirely possible.

Speaking of not making the top ten, I also wouldn't be surprised if Rock the Kasbah struggles to eek out a top ten finish. Starring Bill Murray and directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam), the film will open in 2,012 theaters this weekend with industry projections around $6-8 million. Again, I'm going lower. While Open Road made their pitch with this film to the Comic Con crowd this summer, even bringing Murray on stage to delight the audience, I just don't see that crowd showing up, certainly not opening night and certainly not with Last Witch Hunter as an alternative. Add to that the fact early reviews are largely negative and you have a recipe for disaster. I have it settling into the top ten at $4.4 million, but even that feels high.

Looking at two of last weekend's new openings, I expect Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies to drop only 40% or so for a $9.2 million second weekend. As for Crimson Peak, with a "B-" CinemaScore, Paranormal Activity now in release and Last Witch Hunter stealing any remaining possible eyeballs I'm expecting a steep, 60% drop and a second weekend around $5.2 million.

In limited release, Focus is bringing Suffragette to four theaters this weekend and A24's Room hopes to continue its limited release success after last weekend, adding 19 theaters for a total of 23 across the country.

This weekend's predictions are below.

  • The Last Witch Hunter (3,082 theaters) - $20,033,000
  • Goosebumps (3,501 theaters) - $15,589,953
  • Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (1,656 theaters) - $12,420,000
  • The Martian (3,504 theaters) - $11,927,616
  • Steve Jobs (2,493 theaters) - $10,590,264
  • Bridge of Spies (2,811 theaters) - $9,222,891
  • Hotel Transylvania 2 (3,154 theaters) - $7,714,684
  • Crimson Peak (2,991 theaters) - $5,258,178
  • Rock the Kasbah (2,012 theaters) - $4,426,400
  • Jem and the Holograms (2,413 theaters) - $4,343,400

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