“Evil Dead,’ a grisly R-rated remake of Sam Raimi‘s 1981 cult classic, possessed the top spot at the U.S. box office this weekend with an estimated $26 million three-day haul.
Horror fans had for decades resisted the idea of a redo of Raimi’s seminal “The Evil Dead," seeing it as too gory, too rough-cut and too “indie” to benefit from the “Hollywood” treatment. But they turned out in droves and lifted the remake past last week’s No. 1 film, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “The Croods,” both of which were in the $21 million range.
The weekend’s other wide opener was another blast from the past, a 3D re-release of Steven Spielberg‘s “Jurassic Park,” and it finished fourth with $18.2 million. The nearly $20,000 it averaged on 312 Imax screens was the best ever for a remake.
Raimi’s original was hardly a box-office hit when it came out; it grossed less than $3 million and most fans caught up with the film over the years on VHS. The tale of possession set in a cabin in the woods did, however, inspire a slew of similar movies, including last year's "Cabin in the Woods."
The 2013 "Evil Dead" was produced for around $17 million – considerably more than the $375,000 that the original cost. But the big opening weekend assures a financial win for distributor TriStar, FilmDistrict and Ghost House Pictures.
Horror movies typically play strongest with young people, especially women. But "Evil Dead" drew an audience that was 56 percent male and 56 percent over the age of 25, so it appears to have connected with its classic core audience. They gave it just a "C+" CinemaScore, but that's par for the course on horror films, whose fans almost always give the films low marks.
One reason horror fans gave the new film a chance was that Raimi, who has gone on to direct three “Spider-Man” movies and “Oz the Great and Powerful,” is a producer. So was Robert Tapert, who produced the original film, and Bruce Campbell, who played the heroic Ash in the original.
“Its pedigree and cult appeal give this film a built-in following,” BoxOffice.com editor-in-chief Phil Contrino told TheWrap. “Add in the fact there hasn’t been a horror film in the market for more than a month, and you’re looking at a strong opening."
Director Fede Alvarez made his feature debut on "Evil Dead," after catching Raimi's eye with his short film "Panic Attack." He and Rodo Sayagues co-wrote the script, which got a polish by Diablo Cody.
Jane Levy (TV’s “Suburgatory”) plays the lead, who is taken by a group of her 20-something friends to a remote cabin to get off drugs cold turkey. There, the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods, and the blood-letting — and there’s plenty of it — begins. Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore co-star.
Universal spent $10 million on the 3D conversion of “Jurassic Park” by Stereo D, the same outfit that worked on James Cameron's "Titanic." It was on 2,771 screens and its total came in between those of two other blockbusters that were re-released last year in 3D. It topped “Titanic,” which opened to $17.3 million, but came in under the $22.4 million that “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace.”
IMAX theaters brought in $6 million, or 32 percent of the total gross. The solid debut means the studio should turn a tidy profit — and heighten anticipation for the 3D Blu-ray, due on April 26, and "Jurassic Park. 4," which arrives next summer.
The 3D "Jurassic Park" added another $3 million from the eight foreign countries in which it debuted this weekend. The international market, which is proving particularly enthusiastic toward 3D of late, is expected to generate significant profits for the studio. The 3D re-release of "Titanic" brought in $145 million from China alone last year.
Paramount's 3D toy soldier sequel "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" showed some staying power, dropping just 48 percent from last week's $40 million debut.
The domestic total for the action adventure, which stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum, now stands at nearly $87 million. But its numbers at the foreign box office are even more impressive. It added another $40 million this weekend and has now taken in $145 million abroad, nearly as much as the original film did over its entire run, and major markets Japan and China are yet to come. In all, "Retaliation" has taken in more than $230 million worldwide in just over two weeks.
The hold of DreamWorks Animation's 3D family film "The Croods" was even more impressive. It's the only cartoon in the marketplace, and dropped just 21 percent from last week in its third weekend, raising its overall domestic total to $126 million.
"Tyler Perry's Temptation" held down the fifth slot for distributor Lionsgate, taking in an estimated $10 million in its second week to raise is domestic total to $38 million. FilmDistrict's Antoine Fuqua-directed thriller "Olympus Has Fallen" was in the same $10 million range, and has brought in more than $71 million in three weeks.