'The Grudge': Horror Movie Remake Far Surpasses Expectations

The Grudge Sarah Michelle Gellar'The Grudge' with Sarah Michelle Gellar.

'The Grudge': Horror movie tops box office

Halloween is around the corner. Co-produced by Spider-Man's Sam Raimi, and starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Sarah Michelle Gellar as an American confronting a ghoulish entity in Tokyo, Takashi Shimizu's low-budget horror movie The Grudge – a remake of Shimizu's own Japanese original (2002's Ju-on: The Grudge) – earned an estimated $39.1 million at the U.S. and Canada box office this weekend, October 22-24, '04, or about twice as much as distributor Columbia Pictures officially expected.

The Grudge managed to do what Team America: World Police failed to accomplish last weekend: dethrone DreamWorks' Shark Tale, which earned $14.3 million in second place. The animated feature's current domestic total stands at nearly $137 million. Directed by Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, and Rob Letterman, Shark Tale features the voices of Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, and Angelina Jolie, among others.

DreamWorks was considerably less lucky with newcomer Surviving Christmas, directed by Mike Mitchell, and starring Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate, and The Sopranos' James Gandolfini. At a lowly no. 7, the romantic “familycomedy opened with a highly disappointing $4.5 million.

'Team America: World Police' puppet's wooden box office performance

After falling prey to Shark Tale last weekend, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's over-hyped and widely derided Team America: World Police, featuring a bunch of puppets and some pseudo-political commentary, debuted with a wooden $12.8 million according to studio estimates. This weekend things got even worse, as Team America fell from third to fifth place after plummeting nearly 50 percent. Label it Mission Unaccomplished, as it's apparently easier to destroy Paris, North Korean dictator Kim Jong II, and celebrity peace activists than to lure moviegoers into theaters.

With the addition of nearly 700 screens, Peter Chelsom's Shall We Dance? – like The Grudge a Hollywood remake of a Japanese movie (Masayuki Suo's 1996 hit) – went up one slot, moving from fourth to third place. The unenthusiastically received romantic comedy-drama stars Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Best Actress Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking). So far, Shall We Dance? has collected nearly $25 million in North America.

Going down fast are Jay Russell's poorly received Ladder 49, starring Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta, and Kerry Conran's futuristic Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, toplining Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie.

Arthouse movies 'The Motorcycle Diaries' and 'I Heart Huckabees'

Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries continues to perform quite well in limited release, having raked in more than $7 million to date. The international (U.S. / Brazil / Argentina / Peru / etc.), Spanish-language co-production follows the young Ernesto Guevara – better remembered as Che Guevara – during a road trip through parts of South America. Gael García Bernal (Bad Education) stars as Guevara.

As for David O. Russell's bizarre comedy I Heart Huckabees, it has jumped to tenth place after adding about 700 screens. However, its $3 million weekend box office take, although not bad for such an outlandish effort, translates into a merely so-so $3,820 per screen.

I Heart Huckabees features Isabelle Huppert, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg, two-time Best Actor Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer, Rain Man), two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain), Best Actress Oscar nominee Naomi Watts (21 Grams), Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Lily Tomlin (Nashville), two-time Oscar nominee Talia Shire (The Godfather: Part II, Rocky), and veteran Tippi Hedren (Alfred Hitchcock's blonde muse in The Birds and Marnie).

'The Grudge' trailer with Sarah Michelle Gellar.

2004 Halloween box office: 'The Grudge' once again on top

Halloween 2004 update: On the weekend of October 29-31, Sarah Michelle Gellar's The Grudge once again led the North American box office, with $21.81 million in ticket sales. To date, The Grudge's cume stands at an impressive $70.68 million.

Shark Tale was no. 4 that weekend, though DreamWorks' animated feature remains the fall's biggest domestic box office hit to date, with nearly $147 million. At (or at least near) the other end of the scale, DreamWorks' major fall misfire, the Ben Affleck star vehicle Surviving Christmas, barely survived Halloween, with only $2.43 million on its second weekend out. Surviving Christmas' scary, joyless total to date: $7.98 million.

Taylor Hackford's Ray Charles biopic Ray, which has earned some excellent notices for star Jamie Foxx, opened with a solid $20.03 million at no. 2. Another good debut was that of the low-budget horror movie Saw (not the past tense of the verb “to see”), which took in an impressive $18.27 million at no. 3 – thus easily surpassing early estimates. Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) stars.

Good thing they aren't fighting a real war: Team America: World Police was down another 52 percent from the previous weekend, rapidly spiraling into box office oblivion. Less vomit and more wit might have lured more moviegoers into theaters. But then again, maybe nothing could have.

A few international box office figures

Although much of the international box office has been swallowed whole by the Shark Tale fad – $107.7 million worldwide – local productions in Germany and France were catapulted to the top of their countries' respective box office charts on the last weekend of October 2004.

In Germany, Sven Unterwaldt Jr.'s Seven Dwarves / 7 Zwerge - Männer allein im Wald, a spoof of the Brothers Grimm's Snow White tale, collected an estimated $11.3 million. Adding the Austrian and German-speaking Swiss markets, the Seven Dwarves total reached $13 million.

In France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement / Un long dimanche de fiançailles, featuring Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Denis Lavant, and a cameo by Jodie Foster, raked in $9.7 million. The World War I romantic drama opens in New York and Los Angeles on Nov. 26, '04.


Box-office information via Box Office Mojo.

Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge trailer and image: Columbia Pictures.

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