By Amy Kaufman
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — A low-budget horror film will spook box-office rivals this weekend, continuing the genre’s 2013 reign of terror at the multiplex.
Driven by the interest of young males, the scary sequel “Insidious: Chapter 2” is set for a strong debut of $35 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The dark crime comedy “The Family,” the only other new film hitting theaters this weekend, should get off to a so-so start with around $13 million.
The first “Insidious” debuted in April 2011 with $13.3 million and went on to gross a robust $54 million in the U.S. and Canada. The $1.5 million production was the first release for FilmDistrict.
The sequel, which like the original was directed by James Wan and stars Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, revisits a family that has been unable to sever ties to a paranormal world. The film was co-financed by Sony Pictures, eOne Entertainment and FilmDistrict for $5 million.
Lower-budgeted horror fare has performed well at the 2013 box office. “Mama,” the Guillermo del Toro-produced $15 million movie, kicked off the year by grossing more than $70 million in January. More recently, “The Purge” — like “Insidious” produced by Jason Blum — made $64 million following its June release, against just a $3 million budget.
The genre’s biggest commercial success in 2013 so far, though, has been “The Conjuring.” The scary flick, which also features Wilson, cost $20 million to produce but has grossed more than $135 million domestically since its July opening.
“The Family” stars Robert De Niro as a Mafia boss whose criminal past has forced his family to move to France under the witness protection program. The picture was directed and co-written by French filmmaker Luc Besson, whose EuropaCorp co-financed the $30 million production with domestic distributor Relativity Media. Best known as the director of “La Femme Nikita” and “The Fifth Element,” Besson has found great success as a screenwriter with the “Taken” franchise, starring Liam Neeson.
De Niro, 70, is coming off an Oscar-nominated turn in last year’s critically beloved commercial hit “Silver Linings Playbook.” Yet the veteran actor has otherwise struggled at the box office in recent years. He has been part of ensemble casts in a few underwhelming romantic comedies, including “The Big Wedding” and “New Year’s Eve,” and a handful of his independent films have not even crossed the $1 million milestone. His biggest successes in the last decade have been the two sequels to “Meet the Parents,” in which he starred opposite Ben Stiller as a grouchy father-in-law.