After Sept. 11, audiences may be scared of gory fright-fests
Johnny Depp
Credit: Johnny Depp: Armando Gallo/Retna

Last weekend the Johnny Depp horror thriller ”From Hell” debuted at the top of the box office — barely — with $11.6 million, just ahead of Drew Barrymore’s girl-powered ”Riding in Cars With Boys” and Robert Redford’s prison drama ”The Last Castle.” The first place showing was a pleasant surprise for Depp, who initially wondered if the film’s bloody Jack the Ripper storyline would be a turnoff for audiences weary of watching grim news coverage. ”If movies do anything at all, they provide some escape from reality for a couple of hours,” Depp said prior to the film’s opening. ”But I’m not so sure this is the one people will want to escape to.”

Despite the film’s No. 1 status, industry insiders aren’t so sure, either. Given that Depp’s similarly gruesome (albeit completely fictional) period piece ”Sleepy Hollow” opened to $30.1 million in 1999, ”From Hell”’s box office results seem comparatively lackluster. The Oct. 26 weekend may be the true test of whether or not audiences still have an appetite for gore, however. Joining ”From Hell” in theaters will be two R-rated horror movies ”Bones” (starring Snoop Dogg) and ”13 Ghosts” (with Shannon Elizabeth), which will all face off against the PG-13, feel-good charmer ”K-PAX.”

”All indications point to ‘K-PAX’ winning, but with everything that’s going on, it’s impossible to predict,” says media analyst Robert Bucksbaum of ReelSource, who notes that theater grosses have dipped as audiences have stayed at home to watch the news of Afghanistan, terrorism threats, and anthrax unfold on TV.

From Hell
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