This past weekend was a crowded one at the box office, with JACK RYAN, RIDE ALONG and THE NUT JOB all competing with prestige pics like LONE SURVIVOR, AMERICAN HUSTLE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET for audience attention. Around these parts, the flick to watch - well, keep an eye on - was DEVIL'S DUE, 20th Century Fox's attempt at the micro-budget found footage game. So how did it fare?
Right now, things are not looking bright for Old Scratch. DEVIL'S DUE made about $8.5 million in its first three days, and will likely drop off the face of the Earth next week. To put it in perspective, MAMA opened with a robust $28 million during the same frame last year, while TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D opened to $21 million earlier that month. Horror is still alive and well, but the numbers are beginning to indicate that the found footage subgenre is on life support.
Earlier this month, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES opened to $18 million, a number DEVIL'S DUE certainly would have killed for. But THE MARKED ONES has problems of its own. The opening was down considerably from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4's $29 million debut, which itself was off in a big way from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3's stunning $52 million bow. THE MARKED ONES will finish its run in the area of $33 million, which would be $20 million less than PA4's domestic haul. (You also can't help but wonder how much THE MARKED ONES would have made if it didn't have the words "Paranormal Activity" in the title.) The numbers are dwindling, no doubt.
(As far as the PARANORMAL movies are concerned, one might say any franchise moving into its fifth installment is obviously going to lag. But then we must remember that the SAW series was still thriving at this point: SAW V made $30 million opening weekend, and that was five years ago, when tickets were cheaper.)
I'm not expecting found footage to go away completely, mainly thanks to the low risk-high reward model. DEVIL'S DUE only cost around $7 million, so in the long run it will eek out a small profit for the studio. Meanwhile, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is a namebrand that will continue to draw in audiences, even though they're shrinking in size. Indie horror producers aren't going to abandon it either, because let's face it, it's easier to pull off the found footage/faux-documentary gimmick than mount a traditional production. Unfortunately, most people aren't able to pull it off well.
But... I think we're absolutely closing in on the last days of the subgenre in theaters - save for a couple more PARANORMAL ACTIVITY entries. Audiences simply get tired of the same old thing after a while, and this is definitely the same old thing.