Pre-Halloween Horror Movie 'Carrie' Disappoints at Weekend Box Office - Updated

If the calendar has turned to late October, that means Hollywood has some scares on the release slate. Halloween is a big draw for horror movies. Over the past four years straight, Paranormal Activity movies were number one at the box office before Halloween. However, with the last movie in the series losing steam, that left an opening for a new horror movie this year to fill the void. 

That new movie, a remake of '70s supernatural horror film Carrie, looks set for a dull opening this weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, Carrie brought in a disappointing $16.1 million opening weekend box office. That total left the film in just third place at the movies this weekend.

Dominating the box office once again was Gravity, which grossed $30 million at the box office across the weekend. That's once again a strong hold for a film which has become the breakout hit of the fall movie season. 

Overall, the top 12 films saw a weekend box office of just $93.2 million, a steep 23% drop-off from last year. It's the same story as last weekend, a top-heavy box office where the top five films are comparable to the prior year, but any films outside the top five are seeing anemic box office grosses. The sixth film at the box office this weekend, Prisoners, made just $2 million. In the same weekend last year, the sixth highest grossing film at the weekend box office made nearly 9 million. 

Projected Weekend Box Office 
MovieWeekendDrop from Last Weekend
Gravity$30 million31%
Captain Phillips$16.4 million36%
Carrie$16.1 millionNew
Escape Plan$9.9 millionNew
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2$9.730%

Escape Plan is also a new release this weekend, featuring aging action stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Neither of them have seen much box office success recently aside from Stallone's The Expendables. The film managed to squeak out a fourth place finish, but the sub-$10 million opening weekend just further illustrates that neither of these aging stars are box office draws at this point in their career. 

Not even making the top five despite opening this weekend is The Fifth Estate. The film, based on current events around WikiLeaks, was widely panned by critics. Without critical praise or strong word of mouth, it's simply not the kind of film that will draw a strong box office. The Fifth Estate finished the weekend all the way back in eigth place, with just $1.7 million in box office receipts. 

Digging in deeper on Carrie's performance

Carrie's $16 million weekend is major a disappointment relative to expectations before the weekend; a box office total in the low-20s was expected just a week ago. However, it'll also be a disappointment compared to pre-Halloween horror films in recent years. 

MovieYearPre-Halloween Weekend Box Office
Carrie2013$16.1 million
Paranormal Activity 42012$29 million
Paranormal Activity 3 2011$52.6 million
 Paranormal Activity 22010$40.7 million
Paranormal Activity2009$21.1 million
Saw V2008 $30.1 million 
Saw IV2007 $31.8 million 

As you can see, Carrie represents a pretty serious step back from recent pre-Halloween horror films. This year was free of major franchises that have dominated past years, which gave the movie an opportunity for a big opening weekend. However, it looks set to underperform. 

This list isn't all blockbusters either -- Paranormal Activity in 2009 reportedly cost less than $20,000 to produce. The movie opened in September of that year, but rode strong word of mouth to big weekend grosses across two months. 

Carrie won't be a big financial flop -- the film cost about $30 million to produce. What's more disappointing is that it didn't live up to the opportunity of being the only horror movie before Halloween this year. While the movie could have a reasonable hold next weekend as it still sits in front of Halloween, Carrie's box office gross will fall off a cliff in its third week. 

The real box office story this weekend

While Carrie was the highest-profile new release, the weekend's biggest story will once again be Gravity. Earlier this week I compared Gravity to AvatarWhile Gravity won't end its theatrical run with anywhere close to the $750 million Avatar earned in its original release, it's facing a similar trajectory where demand for 3D viewing, great word of mouth, and repeat viewings are giving it a long run of superb box office weekends. 

This weekend Gravity will saw a drop-off around 31%, which is larger than last weekend's 23% drop-off. Yet, that's still a phenomenal hold for a third weekend. Heading into next weekend, the movie should once again see see little competition in 3D and IMAX, leaving it set up for another strong weekend.

By the time Ender's Game and Thor: The Dark World hit on Nov. 1 and Nov. 8, respectively, giving more competition at at "premium screenings," Gravity will be well clear of $200 million at the box office  and still expanding overseas. 

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