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'Grudge' remake no match for holiday box office leftovers

Sony Corp. is bringing "The Grudge" back to life, in line with the studio's recent efforts to remake some of the biggest hits from its past.

The 2020 iteration of "The Grudge" is an R-rated revamp of the 2004 PG-13 film of the same name, which itself was based on the Japanese horror movie "Ju-on: The Grudge." As with the previous films, the story centers on vengeful ghosts and the victims ultimately consumed by them.

Famed horror filmmaker Sam Raimi, a producer on both the 2004 and 2020 iterations, said fans have approached him often over the years asking for an R-rated "Grudge" picture. Raimi said the more adult rating is a "great weapon in the arsenal of a storyteller whose goal is to terrify the audience," given that the director can show blood without fear of it being cut.

SNL Image"The Grudge"
Source: Columbia Pictures

The 2004 film was a box office success for Sony, earning an opening gross of $39.1 million and a total domestic gross of $110.2 million. The movie ended its run with estimated net profits of $66.3 million, according to Kagan, a media market research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Although the new "Grudge" has several points in its favor — including opening on the first weekend of January, which has proven to be a strong weekend for horror offerings in recent years — the remake is not expected to match the performance of its predecessor. BoxOffice.com estimates "Grudge" will take in only $8.5 million during its debut weekend. Deadline.com cited studio estimates of about $9 million, though it noted that a few bullish prognosticators are looking for an opening between $11 million and $15 million.

Several factors may be contributing to the muted expectations, including tough competition from holiday holdovers like The Walt Disney Co.'s "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" and "Frozen II," as well as Sony's own "Jumanji: The Next Level." BoxOffice.com expects the final entry in the "Star Wars" franchise to lead the Jan. 3 box office with a weekend gross of $36.6 million. The movie has already earned more than $400 million in the U.S. since its domestic release on Dec. 20, 2019.

"Grudge" could also be suffering from a broader fatigue around remakes. Although Sony's reboots of the "Jumanji" franchise, including 2017's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" and the sequel "The Next Level," both had strong performances at the box office, a number of other recent remakes from the studio failed to impress. "Men In Black: International" and "Charlie's Angels" were both considered disappointments in 2019, for instance.

"Grudge" is not getting any kind of early boost from reviews. As of 2:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 2, the movie had yet to receive a rating on critical review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes as there were no advance U.S. press screenings of the film.

SNL Image