The end of September will feature a whopping four major wide releases. Sony is expanding “Dumb Money” after a few weeks of platforming. 20th Century Studios’ “The Creator” earned $1.6 million in previews while Lionsgate’s “Saw X” earned $2 million in Thursday previews.
That “Saw” figure is better — sans inflation — than the $1.6 million earned by “Jigsaw” in October of 2017 and the $1.7 million earned by “Saw 3-D” in October of 2010. “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” earned $750,000 in its previews amid a COVID-era May debut in 2021.
With shockingly good reviews (85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, a sign of how the newer critical class is far more appreciative of horror as a genre than generations past) and a strong reaction thus far by fans of the long-running grindhouse series, Lionsgate is hoping for an opening weekend at least on par with the $17 million Fri-Sun debut of “Jigsaw.”
Sure, the first four sequels opened with over/under $30 million. However, “Saw V” — the franchise’s last mega-opener — debuted 15 years ago, amusingly against the $42 million launch of “High School Musical: Senior Year.”
If the film — a pre-“Saw II” prequel that returns Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw to center stage after the character was killed off in “Saw III” — overperforms and ends up earning closer to $20 million than $15 million, it’ll be partially because “Saw” offers the kind of franchise-specific elements audiences can’t get anywhere else.
Audiences are comparatively rejecting most of the “old men doing action” franchise sequels this year. That’s partially because they generally promise variations on the same thing. “Saw X” is the only place for the franchise’s trademark endurance-test gore, pinball continuity and skewed moralizing.
The “Jurassic World” movies scored huge even amid years of arguable franchise/tentpole saturation. That was partially because it was the only franchise offering A) blue-collar/non-superpowered protagonists and B) dinosaurs eating people.
Moreover, horror remains incredibly consistent and bankable even as other genres like comedy struggle. Horror remains the one genre that hasn’t been co-opted by the various tentpole franchises. If audiences want (often R-rated) thrills associated with horror, you can’t get them from superhero movies, animated films or “Barbie.”
“Paw Patrol 2” didn’t have pre-release previews, but could top the weekend box office anyway thanks to strong family/kid interest. “The Creator” earned a promising but not superlative figure. Starring John David Washington, Gareth Edwards’ $80 million sci-fi original concerns a dystopian future where humans are at war with artificial intelligence. Which side is the real aggressor? Barring extreme front loading or unexpected legs for the mostly well-received picture, “The Creator” should open with around $19 million. That would be on par with “Gemini Man,” “The Woman King” and “Ad Astra.”