Perhaps fitting for a week that saw polishes on violent ‘80s enterprises like Conan The Barbarian and Fright Night, the weekend box office was a grisly, corpse-filled, NC-17-rated bloodbath. Usually when four new movies duke it out for supremacy, one or two can claim at least modest success, but Conan, Fright Night, Spy Kids 4, and One Day all failed miserably, despite three of the four being a sequel or a remake, which are reliable bread-winners by design. Of the four, Spy Kids 4 failed the least, despite a $12 million take that was barely a third of the money the last Spy Kids movie made in the same frame. Robert Rodriguez’s talent for keeping the budget down—a ploy that sacrifices passable production values for a healthier bottom line—means that the paltry winnings are taken against an exceedingly thrifty $27 million budget. That may be enough to eke into profitability eventually, but don’t look for a Spy Kids 5 any time soon.
As for the others, the poorly received Conan The Barbarian opened just behind Spy Kids 4 at $10 million (against a $90 million budget), scotching any plans for a Conan The Destroyer redux, featuring a newly retired Shaquille O’Neal in the Wilt Chamberlain role. Fright Night earned at least a healthy smattering of good notices, but that only enough for $7.9 million, a number that looks even worse when 3-D gouging is factored in. And though the gimmicky Anne Hathaway-Jim Sturgess romance One Day opened on far fewer screens than the week’s other wide releases, its $5.1 million haul revealed a lower per-screen average than all but Fright Night, just south of $3,000. None of them could compete with The Help, which followed the Blind Side script of opening in second before ascending into first on strong word-of-mouth and little week-to-week dropoff. It added $20.5 million to an impressive two-week total of $71.8 million.
The ugliness spilled over to the arthouses, too. Writer-director John Sayles was once the biggest conversation-starter in independent film, but his latest, Amigo, earned just $4,000 per screen on 10 screens. Despite its hook of a title, Mozart’s Sister collected just $4,700 per screen and the propagandistic Renny Harlin actioner 5 Days Of War might as well have gone straight to video, given its $3,200 average on two screens.
More detailed numbers at Box Office Mojo.