Snakes on a Plane (2006): Internet Buzz

What’s the impact of Internet buzz on the box-office? That’s the burning question in Hollywood this weekend, when Snakes on a Plane gets its wide bow.

After over six months of trailers, blog debates and mainstream press articles about the online hype, New Line will find out what it all means in terms of box-office gross as “Snakes on a Plane” opens this weekend.

According to sources, the film is tracking like a late-summer horror film, which suggests a bow in the high teens. But studio hopes that the hype and buzz could translate into something bigger, around the 25 to 30 million.

“I’m not sure you can track this movie,” said New Line distribution prexy David Tuckerman. “Nobody can ever remember a film that has been like this. Since the beginning, we’ve just been trying to catch up with it.”

Main competition this weekend is Universal’s slacker comedy “Accepted,” which is also going after a teenage audience but has the benefit of a PG-13 rating vs. the R for “Snakes.”

Intense exhibitor interest helped New Line book it at 3,555 playdates, very wide for a horror film. Few doubt that theaters will be packed with the hard core, mostly young males and some older males on Friday and for latenight shows Thursday. But what about women Will the boys bring their dates to the campy picture

Another issue is is that elusive concept, word of mouth: will good word spread after hardcore fans get to see the film, convincing a broader aud that “Snakes” is more than an Internet oddity. New Line has not made the movie available for review before it opens.

Tuckerman said he’s hopeful that teenage girls, who often help drive a horror picture’s success but aren’t showing up in tracking for “Snakes,” will be a key component in its opening weekend.

Current record holder for an August horror opening is New Line’s “Freddy vs. Jason,” which made $36.4 million in 2003.

Tracking on “Accepted,” which opens at 2,913 playdates, is similar to that of “Snakes,” with interest mostly among teen and college-aged guys. Universal moved the film from last weekend to avoid “Step Up” and the second frame of “Talladega Nights.”

It could get a boost from teenagers’ interest in “Snakes,” industryites noted, as under-17s may buy a ticket for “Accepted” and then sneak into the Samuel Jackson starrer.