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Box office preview: Will 'Paranormal Activity' slaughter 'Saw VI'?

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Saw-VI_lFor the last six years a new installment of Saw has been as reliable a predictor of the changing seasons as the sudden ubiquitous Spirit Halloween stores that seem to pop up in every abandoned store front across the country. Every year, the movie opens in first place to figures north of $30 million. This year that could all change, as the on-demand horror phenomenon Paranormal Activity might usurp some of Saw’s momentum. While it’s unlikely the low-budget upstart will win the weekend, it’s very possible it could push Saw’s gross down into the $20 million range. Because really, are there enough horror fans out there to sustain two scarefests? For those not looking to be frightened, Universal Pictures is putting out the boy vampire movie The Vampire’s Assistant while Summit Entertainment counter-programs with its animated romp Astro Boy. With so much new product in theaters, it will be a challenge for last weekend’s strong openers Where the Wild Things Are and Law Abiding Citizen to maintain much of its audience. Read on for my predictions.

1. Saw VI: $28 million

The last two installments of Saw have opened to less coin than the third one, which scored a record opening for the series back in 2006 with $33 million. Sure Jigsaw is still averaging an impressive $28.6 million opening, which is about where this sixth one should open, but let’s be clear, Saw isn’t exactly generating interest from new fans who have discovered the father of all torture porn movies. Besides, with a shiny new thing like Paranormal Activity to distract moviegoers, Saw may be looking a little more dusty than Lionsgate intended it to be. The studio is already counting on a Saw VII next year in 3-D.

2. Paranormal Activity: $25 million

This uber-cheap horror flick earned an astonishing $25,000 per theater last weekend on its 760 locations. That gave the film a gross of $33 million. Now Paramount will expand the movie even wider, to 1950 theaters. While $25 million may seem like a lofty guess, this is the perfect film to see one weekend before Halloween. Like it or hate it, it’s what everyone’s talking about.

3. Where the Wild Things Are: $16 million

Wild Things opened strong last weekend, nabbing the top spot with $32 million. Most parents left their kids at home to see Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book. Will they bring them this weekend? Probably not often enough to keep the film from falling at least 50%. And with Astro Boy flooding theaters this frame, Wild Things could also suffer from a shiny new toy that’s more obviously directed towards children.

4. Astro Boy: $12 million

Astro Boy features a voice cast of Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell and Nicolas Cage and is the first film adaptation of the Japanese anime series from the 1960s. Yet, it’s not a Pixar film nor even a Dreamworks Animation spectacle. And it seems today that unless you are one of those two, or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you don’t have much chance of succeeding at the box office. Still, the movie comes at an opportune moment for kids. If your child isn’t too slammed with Halloween festivities, here’s one place you could take him.

5. Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant: $11 million

This film had so much potential. Finally a vampire movie for teen boys directed ironically by New Moon director Chris Weitz’s older brother Paul Weitz. It features an inspired cast of John C. Reilly, Willem Dafoe and Salma Hayek as a bearded lady. Yet, the reviews have been scathing and the PG-13 rating makes it too scary for 8-year olds and yet not very interesting to teenagers. In fact, it will be quite a feat if it crosses the $10 million mark.

Also opening: Hilary Swank in Amelia by Mira Nair in 800 theaters; Disney re-issues Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas on 58 screens in 3-D; Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair expands to 458 screens.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie