'Red,' 'Secretariat,' 'The Town' in new trend this fall

With a title that stands for “Retired Extremely Dangerous” and a cast that includes Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren, it’s no wonder that Summit’s “Red” has struck a chord with auds over 35.

Though the film’s older-skewing demo didn’t put the pic on top its opening weekend, as adults typically wait until repeat frames to visit the multiplexes, some pics, such as “The Town” with $85 million, are showing strong holding power with the older demo.

Also drawing an over-35 demo is “Secretariat,” which is seeing solid results in some areas but hasn’t produced a B.O. trifecta.

It’s even more notable then that “Red” debuted with $21.8 million the same weekend as “Jackass 3D‘s” $50 million bow, just under “The Social Network’s” No. 1 opening at $22.4 million and more than “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” which won its opening weekend with $19 million.

“I think it says a lot about adult audiences that we were able to coexist in that world with some decent holdovers,” said Summit prexy of domestic distribution Richie Fay. “It’s a very positive note to see that you can have two or three adult-driven films in the marketplace at one time.”

According to Fay, “Red” earned positive reactions from test screenings throughout the South and Midwest. Disney got similar feedback for “Secretariat,” which has cumed a modest $37.4 million so far. The film, down just 26% this weekend, opened best in markets like Salt Lake City and Denver.

“Typically, drops in the 40s are the norm,” said Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane. “So if you ever have a drop under 35%, you’re sitting there with your jaw down.”

In biz terms, the “older aud” demo is comprised of moviegoers over about 35. But senior citizens — 65 and older — can also help pics stay strong in the marketplace when they find a title that’s appealing.

Some circuits like the Midwestern chain Marcus Theaters are seeing good business from discount programs for senior citizens meant to draw those auds during non-peak times — though senior tickets average only $6.50 per ducat and even less during off-peak promotions.

Several locations saw good turnouts for “Red” and “Secretariat” in their second week, said a spokesman for Marcus Theaters, the sixth-largest U.S. chain, with theaters in states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Nebraska. “The senior audience is more likely to go see a film like ‘Secretariat’ than say an action film,” the spokesman said.

Fay agreed but added that the appeal of “Red” was boosted by its older cast.

“Red” cost some $48 million to make, but with subsidies and foreign licensing fees, Summit is responsible for less than half that amount. “Secretariat” was also midrange, budgeted at about $35 million vs. an estimated $85 million budget for 2003’s “Seabiscuit.”

Lower budgets, with relatively stable marketing costs, should help increase chances of long-term profitability.

“There’s something going on this fall that is quite unusual,” Viane said, referring to the sustainability of adult pics in the market.

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