LOS ANGELES – Those scary boogeymen are continuing their reign of terror at movie theaters.
"Boogeyman" (search) was the latest in a rush of horror flicks to top the weekend box office, debuting with $19.5 million to beat the romantic comedy "The Wedding Date," (search) which opened in second place with $11 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The road-trip comedy "Are We There Yet?" came in third with $10.4 million, raising its total after 17 days to $51.1 million. "Hide and Seek," another fright film that led the box office the previous weekend, slipped to No. 4 with $8.9 million, lifting its 10-day gross to $35.7 million.
Business was relatively quiet because of the Super Bowl (search), which keeps many movie-goers at home. But for a Super Bowl weekend, Hollywood had a fairly strong showing, with the top 12 movies grossing $91 million. Over Super Bowl weekend last year, the top 12 took in $73.4 million.
"Boogeyman" stars Barry Watson as a man who tries to overcome his fear of what's lurking in the closet by spending a night in the boyhood home that is the source of his terror. The movie was made by "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi's horror-production outfit Ghost House Pictures, which also made last fall's hit "The Grudge."
As with "Hide and Seek" and other recent scary movies such as "White Noise" and "Saw," "Boogeyman" overcame harsh critical reaction to draw in the always faithful horror crowd. "Boogeyman" did not screen beforehand for critics, generally a sign the studio knows a movie will get bad reviews.
"I certainly believe it's a genre where people are going to be more moved by the marketing materials they see for the movie than by what the critics say," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony Pictures, whose Screen Gems banner released "Boogeyman."
Helping to prime the path, the trailer for "Boogeyman" ran before screenings of "The Grudge," allowing the new movie to ride the coattails of that $100 million hit.
Many fright flicks tend to open well then quickly vanish from theaters as the horror audience moves on to something else. Produced for just $7 million, though, "Boogeyman" should turn a tidy profit even if revenues nosedive in subsequent weekends.
Also trashed by critics, "The Wedding Date" stars Debra Messing as a woman who hires a male escort as her companion to a wedding to show up her ex-fiance, who's the best man.
Like "Boogeyman," "The Wedding Date" was a comparatively low-cost movie, with a budget under $15 million, meaning it should turn a solid profit.
Given Messing's audience appeal from her sit-com "Will & Grace" and a relative lack of current movie choices for women, "The Wedding Date" was able to draw in a good portion of the female crowd. Women accounted for three-fourths of the movie's audience.
"I've always believed you don't have to have a big budget to have a successful movie if you have the benefit of a movie that hits a basic appeal button," said "Wedding Date" producer Paul Brooks, whose other low-budget hits include "White Noise" and the romantic-comedy blockbuster "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Boogeyman," $19.5 million.
2. "The Wedding Date," $11 million.
3. "Are We There Yet?", $10.4 million.
4. "Hide and Seek," $8.9 million.
5. "Million Dollar Baby," $8.8 million.
6. "The Aviator," $5.4 million.
7. "Meet the Fockers," $5 million.
8. "Sideways," $4.8 million.
9. "Racing Stripes," $4.43 million.
10. "Coach Carter," $4.4 million.