Box Office Breakdown: Wild Things Go Wild, Law Abiding Citizen Finds Justice

Let the wild rumpus start! Where The Wild Things Are was crowned king at the box office this weekend with a burly $32.4 million. Between Spike Jonze’s film, the better-than-anticipated opening for Law Abiding Citizen ($21.2 million) and the continued growth of Paranormal Activity, this was the highest grossing October weekend on record. As we do each Monday, here’s a breakdown of the top five at the box office.

1. Where The Wild Things Are: $32.4 million ($32.4 million total)

You’ll see much written today about how this opening for Where the Wild Things Are is solid-but-unspectacular. Do us a favor, though, and don’t believe everything you read: $32.4 million for what is really an art house meditation on the ennui felt by children from the director of Adaptation and Being John Malkovich (neither of which grossed over $32 million total) has to be considered runaway success. The giant budget (reportedly near $100 million) not withstanding, we’d love to know what everyone else reasonably expected.

2. Law Abiding Citizen: $21.2 million ($21.2 million total)

Fun with numbers! June’s Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 had a budget of $100 million, featured two A-list stars (Denzel Washington and John Travolta) and wound up grossing $23 million on opening weekend. Law Abiding Citizen had a budget of $50 million, features two B-list stars (Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler) and wound up grossing $21 million on opening weekend. The moral? When dealing with a  cat and mouse revenge piece, don’t go the extra mile. There is a finite audience here and Law Abiding Citizen found them for half the cost of Pelham.

3. Paranormal Activity: $20.1 million ($33.7 million total)

Before you start proclaiming that Paranormal Activity is no Blair Witch Project, take a look at the per screen averages. When Blair Witch expanded to 1,101 theaters in the summer of 1999, it grossed $26,528 per screen, which was good for $29.2 million. Paranormal Activity got its $20.1 million this weekend from just 760 screens… which breaks down to $26,530 per screen. Of course ticket prices are different nowadays, but make no mistake: this micro-budgeted DV horror flick is poised to be one of the biggest hits of the season.

4. Couples Retreat: $17.9 million ($63.3 million total)

Last weekend’s top choice dropped an expected 47 percent, which is about standard for your typical Vince Vaughn relationship comedy. While reaching the $118 million that The Break Up scored in the summer of 2006 might be out of the question, Couples Retreat should still inch its way past $100 million, which would make it only the second such grosser this year for Universal, after Fast & Furious. If you needed confirmation that it has been a bad year for the studio, you just got some.

5. The Stepfather: $12.3 million ($12.3 million total)

How is this cheapy horror remake different from all the others? It isn’t! Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley saw his foray into movie stardom stalk out fifth place over the weekend, easily topping Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($8 million/$108 million total) in the process. If nothing else, at least Mr. Badgley has some bragging rights over fellow cast member, Chace Crawford, who saw his horror movie entry, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, open to half this number last October. Box Office Breakdown: Wild Things Go Wild, Law Abiding Citizen Finds Justice