Although the North American box office was some 21.6% down on the same week last year, at least it picked up on last weekend by about 15% as a result of two new horror movies on the market. Or rather, one new horror movie and one very old horror movie re-released in a new format.
Phoenix Pictures' Urban Legends: Final Cut, a sequel to its moderate 1998 hit Urban Legend, took the number one spot with an estimated $8.8m at 2,539 sites - an average of $3,466 per theatre. Columbia Pictures has domestic rights per its distribution agreement with Phoenix while Columbia TriStar has most of the rest of the world bar certain Phoenix output territories.
Poorly reviewed, Final Cut is the directorial debut of editor/composer John Otman whose credits include The Usual Suspects and Halloween: H20. It cost $14.6m and stars Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Davis, Joey Lawrence, Hart Bochner and Marco Hofschneider.
But it was Warner Bros' reissue of The Exorcist in the so-called "The Version You've Never Seen" which made the biggest impact at the box office. The classic 1973 horror opus based on the novel by William Peter Blatty and directed by William Friedkin grossed $8.53m on just 664 sites - a massive average of $12,839.
The re-release which includes an additional 11 minutes never before seen - it now runs to 132 mins - was born out of conversations between Blatty and Friedkin about a new cut of the film reinstating scenes which Blatty wanted in the original cut. Friedkin, who refers to the cut as Blatty's version, has now put scenes in such as a Casablanca-style exchange between Lt Kinderman and Father Dyer at the movie's end, a dialogue between Father Merrin and Father Karras midway through the exorcism and a scene of Regan spiderwalking down the stairs upside down on her hands and feet with blood pouring from her mouth. The soundtrack has also been digitally remastered.
Warner plans to add another 400 screens on the new Exorcist next weekend and will open the balance of the country on Oct 13 - Friday the 13th. The movie, of course, stars Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Jason Miller, Max Von Sydow, Lee J Cobb, Kitty Winn and Jack MacGowran. It was nominated for ten Oscars in 1973 and won two - for Blatty's screenplay and for the sound.
In third position DreamWorks SKG's Almost Famous widened to 1,193 screens and grossed $7m for an average of $5,860 per screen. DreamWorks is following roughly the same pattern on the film as American Beauty, which took a better $8.2m on fewer screens (706 screens) in its first wide weekend.
The only wide opener - on 1,085 screens - was Fox Searchlight's Woman On Top directed by Fina Torres and starring Penelope Cruz. The comedy opened with a poor $1.9m - an average of just $1,765 per theatre.
ESTIMATED TOP TEN US SEPT 22-24
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (-) Urban Legends: Final Cut (Columbia) Columbia TriStar/Phoenix $8.8m --
2 (-) The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $8.5m --
3 (8) Almost Famous (DreamWorks SKG) Columbia TriStar $7m $10.3m
4 (3) Bring It On (Universal) Beacon/BVFS $4.2m $55.9m
5 (1) The Watcher (Universal) Interlight Pictures $3.6m $22.7m
6 (2) Bait (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $3.4m $10.6m
7 (4) Nurse Betty (USA Films) Summit Entertainment $3.3m $18.1m
8 (7) What Lies Beneath (DreamWorks SKG) 20th Century Fox $2.2m $148.5m
9 (5) Space Cowboys (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $2.17m $85.1m
10 (-) Woman On Top (Fox Searchlight) 20th Century Fox $1.9m --