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By Hammad Zaidi | July 23, 2013

Just when the major film studios thought it was safe to put their tent pole summer releases back into the box office water, another modestly budgeted film, this time The Conjuring, ripped apart its massively budgeted competitors over the weekend. Like the great white shark terrorized Amity Island in the 1975 Steven Spielberg classic, Jaws, The Conjuring continues the streak of smaller films outperforming major releases this summer. Today we’re going to examine how Warner Brothers’ $20 million dollar budgeted, The Conjuring, took down not one, but two new releases with much larger budgets. Turbo, the DreamWorks Animation produced and Fox  distributed $135 million dollar budgeted film, and R.I.P.D., Universal’s $130 million offering. While this summer’s David Vs. Goliath trend is cause for concern to studios that spend massive dollars on key summer offerings, it also serves as a huge opportunity for studios to embrace the producing of mid-range budgeted films. Thus, indie filmmakers should start to rewrite their best scripts and do another pass on their director’s reel, because some of the best opportunities of your career are on the horizon.

The Conjuring Sets Records on it’s Way to Winning the Weekend
The Conjuring, Warner Brothers’ $20 million dollar supernatural horror, set records over the weekend when it conjured up $41,855,326 in 2,903 theaters. That total made this modestly budgeted hit the highest grossing, R-rated original horror release in its opening weekend, of all time. The picture enjoyed a scary good per screen average of $14,318 per screen, and A-rating on CinemaScore, and even an 85% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film has also earned $3,400,000 internationally, giving it a three day worldwide total of $45,255,346. While the foreign markets are expected to pick up if The Conjuring continues to perform domestically, regardless what ultimately happens overseas, the film has already more than doubled its production budget in its first three days of release, so its already cemented its status as a bonafide hit.

Turbo Flutters and Runs Like the Snail that it is
This $135 million dollar budgeted DreamWorks Animation produced and Fox distributed film, made $31,015,384 in 3,806 theaters in five days of release, but only $21,312,625 over the weekend. That gives the picture a dismal $5,600 per screen average. Adding to DreamWorks Animation’s headache, Turbo is studio’s worst performing release since Flushed Away in 2006. Of course, all may not be lost for this film, because a) it hasn’t been released internationally as of yet, and b) there’s still the ancillary markets like DVD and VOD to recoup from.

Side note: When comparing The Conjuring to Turbo, let’s consider the following eyeopening fact: Turbo was released on 903 more screens than The Conjuring, but made $20,542,701 less at the box office during the days they went head-to-head. That discrepancy is even more haunting when we consider that “R” rated horror films usually perform worse than major, family oriented animation releases.

R.I.P.D. Will Most Certainly Rest in Peace for Cinematic Eternity
When I first saw the trailer for R.I.P.D., I thought it was one of those fake GEICO commercials (seriously). This $130 million dollar Universal release was pretty much dead on arrival, as it earned only $12,691,415 in 2,852 theaters. That’s a $4,450 per screen average. The film has earned $6,800,000 overseas thus far, giving it a worldwide total of $19,491,415. Unless this film launches far beyond where it’s expected to internationally, it will die a quick, but painful death this month.

Why You, The Indie Filmmaker, Should prepare for Opportunities
Should you be wondering what studio releases have to do with your career as an indie filmmaker, wonder no longer, because here is your answer: Most big budget directors have little to know idea how to pull off a $20 million budget, when they’re used to having $200 million. Thus, studios may be looking to find filmmakers that can deliver them box office gold, on budgets made of copper. While the studios won’t rush out and hire a rash of independent filmmakers all at once, they will soon be open to the idea, so you better get your best creative offerings in shape and ready to go!

On that note, I’d like to thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday. Until then, have a great week! As always, I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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