At movies, variety sells
Film up $611 million in record October

By Greg Hernandez
Staff Writer

Led by a couple of violent movies, a horror-film spoof and a comedy about a rock music-loving teacher, the nation's multiplexes surged in a record October with box-office receipts topping $600 million, according to figures released Monday by Exhibitor Relations Co.

Although it lacked a single dominant blockbuster, the month had grosses that reached an all-time October high of $611 million on the strength of several surprisingly strong performers, including "Scary Movie 3," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "School of Rock" and "Kill Bill Vol. 1." Each has grossed more than $60 million to date and is still going strong.

The totals represented a 9 percent increase over the previous October record of $560 million, set last year when "Sweet Home Alabama," "The Ring" and "Red Dragon" dominated.

"This was a great October," said Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian. "Normally, October is not known as a big month but a transition time preceding the big holiday period. But this year in particular, everything came together."

"Scary Movie 3" gave the month's receipts a major boost when it opened with a stunning three-day gross of $48.1 million, by far the biggest October opening in history.

"The interesting thing about the month is that you had one movie after another averaging over $20 million on opening weekend," said Brandon Gray, editor of the Web site Box Office Mojo. "Generally speaking, only one or two do that. Here it was a new number one every weekend, just like in summer."

Other October releases remaining in the top 10 with solid medium numbers include "Radio," "Mystic River,"and "Runaway Jury," all of which dropped less than 30 percent from the weekend before.

Meanwhile, several movies quietly rang up respectable grosses during the month, including the Diane Lane film "Under the Tuscan Sun" ($39.8 million) and the Robert Duvall-Michael Caine pairing "Secondhand Lions" ($40.9 million).

One of the surprise hits of the month was MGM's "Good Boy!" which has grossed $35.2 million to date and cost about half that to make. It had the advantage of being the only family film in the marketplace until Saturday's release of Disney's animated "Brother Bear," which earned a stellar $19.8 million in its first two days.

"The films that were playing in October were just of particular interest to moviegoers across the board," Dergarabedian said. "If you wanted intense violent films, October was your month, but if you wanted comedy, then you had that option as well. It was a smorgasbord of movies."

The spreading of box-office wealth resulted in fewer outright bombs, although the Angelina Jolie drama "Beyond Borders" has tanked with a two-week gross of just $3.8 million.

Two other films that had modest box-office success but ultimately underperformed considering their movie-star pedigrees were "Intolerable Cruelty," starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones ($31.8 million), and the Denzel Washington thriller "Out of Time" ($39.3 million).

"It wasn't necessarily about star power this month," Dergarabedian said. "The movies that did the best didn't necessarily have big stars in them. A lot of it had to do with concepts."

Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758 greg.hernandez@dailynews.com