Whether "Saw IV" can beat the opening grosses for "Saw III" and "Saw II," which opened to $33.6 million and $31.7 million, respectively, remains to be seen. All the "Saw" films have debuted over the Halloween frame.
In June, Lionsgate was jolted when Eli Roth's hardcore horror sequel "Hostel: Part II" underwhelmed at the box office, opening to $8.2 million, less than half of the $19.5 million nabbed by "Hostel."
Still, "Saw" is the flagship hardcore horror franchise, with the first three films grossing more than $223 million domestically. "Saw IV" is directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who also helmed the second and third films. Tobin Bell returns in the role of Jigsaw.
With "Dan," Disney hopes to capitalize by offering a feel-good adult title amid a sea of pics with darker storylines and politically themed plots. Film, directed by Peter Hedges, also stars Juliette Binoche and Dane Cook. Story concerns a widowed father of three who meets a woman who also happens to be his brother's girlfriend. Jonathan Shestack scripted.
REALITY TV DOMINATING PRODUCTION
In a surprise development, studios held back on stockpiling feature films in Los Angeles during the past three months in the face of strike fever but third-quarter TV production stayed sizzling.
Third-quarter feature stats showed 1,897 days of off-lot shooting on public property in the Los Angeles area -- down 22% from the third quarter of 2006 and off 24% from the previous quarter. It was the slowest third quarter for features in four years, according to permit statistics issued today by the Film L.A. agency.
"We had heard that production should continue to increase as contract talks instensified but we just didn't see that happen during the third quarter," Film L.A. president Steve MacDonald said.
But TV production was at the second-highest level ever recorded with 5,950 days, Film L.A. said. That figure represented a 10% gain from the second quarter and trailed only the first-quarter record of 6,478 days.
TV activity has soared in Los Angeles over the past few years, thanks to the growth of cable and reality shows. Film L.A. stats showed a 2% gain in the third quarter, pushed by a 43% hike in pilots and growth in areas such as talk and variety.
Reality TV continued to dominate, edging down 1% to 2,374 days, while TV drama activity declined 12% to 1,852. Sitcoms slid 16% to 504 days.
The figures are one of the few measures of local production activity, although some observers note that the stats capture less than half of the region's production activity.
NEW LIFE IN WGA TALKS
With time running out to prevent a strike, studio and networks have jumpstarted stalled contract talks with a streamlined proposal that flatly nixes a hike on residuals for DVDs, one of the WGA's key demands.
The companies presented the Writers Guild of America with the detailed package at Thursday's negotiating session with the goal of brushing aside issues that may be somewhat peripheral and begin the give-and-take of bargaining on nitty-gritty contract points.
But the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers also told the WGA to forget about demands for boosts in residuals.
"We will not accept increases in the DVD residual formula, in residual payments due for programs run on the CW or MyNetwork TV, or in residual payments for programs made for the pay television market," said AMPTP veepee Carol Lombardini.
In response, WGA negotiators said they needed time to study the proposals and would return to the bargaining table at 11 a.m. today.
"The proposal lays the groundwork and provides a framework for an agreement," said AMPTP president Nick Counter. "The comprehensive proposal establishes the boundaries for a possible agreement, but it is flexible enough to allow both parties to come up with solutions as to the remaining issues. The goal is to reach an agreement by Oct. 31."
The new proposal doesn't cover WGA demands such as expansion of jurisdiction on new media, animation or reality. But it does include granting the writers the right to consult on product integration issues and removes part of the "separated rights" proposal that the WGA had asserted would limit the ability of writers to exploit their work on TV.
And it proposed that the WGA take several of its proposals off the table as a quid-pro-quo -- such as the guild removing a demand that ringtones be covered by the merchandising language in exchange for the AMPTP dropping a proposal for eliminating payments for a new characters in limited circumstances.
The presentation of the new AMPTP proposal came after two days of huddling by execs to hammer out a strategy to avert a strike, which could start as early as next Thursday. Counter has repeatedly expressed frustration with the WGA over its refusal to budge from its initial package of 26 proposals, first presented three months ago when negotiations began.
It's the second move by the AMPTP in the past two weeks to salvage the negotiations. Counter took the companies' controversial residuals revamp proposal -- which would have tied payouts to writers to the studios' recoupment of basic costs -- off the table on Oct. 16, but the WGA leaders were unimpressed and asserted that the AMPTP should have never made the residuals proposal in the first place.
The guild has insisted it won't discuss the other AMPTP proposals until they're modified to take so-called "rollbacks" off the table -- including the lack of coverage for new media distribution such as Internet streaming of movies and TV segs and cell-phone mobisodes; the right to credit any amounts due a writer against other payments; elimination of the requirement that writing credits appear in publicity and advertising; and restrictions in the ability of writers to exploit TV rights and reacquire screenplays.