Nightcrawler, Ouija top box office
Jake Gyllenhaal's crime thriller Nightcrawler and the board-game adaptation Ouija have tied for first place at the US box office with 10.9 million dollars (£6.8 million) each over the Halloween weekend.
The two could not be split according to film distributors, although when final figures are announced, one film will likely slightly edge out the other.
For Open Road's low-budget Los Angeles noir Nightcrawler, it was a strong debut considering its creepy, unconventional protagonist. Gyllenhaal plays an ambulance-chasing man who shoots gory footage for the local news.
The independent, R-rated film was able to capitalise on a weekend the studios were frightened away from. With Halloween falling on a Friday, trick-or-treating affected one of the most lucrative movie-going nights of the week. Grosses were down 40 per cent from the same weekend a year ago, according to box-office tracker Rentrak.
"Most studios know when Halloween falls on a Friday, usually they're not good days," said Universal's distribution head, Nikki Rocco. "People party. It's a holiday, and it's not a moviegoing holiday."
Open Road's estimate for Nightcrawler was technically 8,760 dollars (£5,480) above Universal's number for Ouija. But that tiny margin may not hold up when receipts are counted. Other studios had Ouija narrowly edging Nightcrawler.
"We've seen squeakers over the years but this is one of the closest ones I've ever seen," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Rentrak. "It's a testament to the holding power of Ouija."
Despite the Halloween night impact, Ouija dropped only 45 per cent after topping the box office last weekend. That's unusually low for a micro-budget horror film, most of which see interest wane considerably after opening. But Universal opened the horror film a weekend ahead of Halloween to give it a two-week window.
The close contest added drama to one of the quietest movie weekends of the year. Overall business was down 25 per cent from the prior year. Said Dergarabedian: "The scariest thing about this weekend was that Halloween fell on a Friday."
Next weekend will be a far different story, though, with the highly anticipated release of Christopher Nolan's science-fiction epic Interstellar, as well as Disney's animated superhero film Big Hero 6.
In the meantime, the Brad Pitt World War II tale Fury held in third place with 9.1 million dollars (£5.6 million) in its third week of release. In its fifth week, the Ben Affleck thriller Gone Girl also remained in fourth with an additional 8.8 million dollars (£5.5 million) to its 136.6 million dollar (£85.3 million) cumulative total to make it the highest grossing release of director David Fincher's career.