Not to spoil it, but Bell would have not just one of those movies in his career, but ten of them as of this weekend, as his role as John Kramer has become an essential part of the horror canon, right up there with Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. Indeed, “Saw” kind of became the little movie that could — and rapidly at that. Just six months after arriving in Los Angeles, Whannell and Wan had finished shooting the film. With Lionsgate, a young and hungry studio looking for an identity at the time, on board to distribute, things were looking up.
R-rated, gory, and complete with a marketing campaign that was happy to lean into the shock value, “Saw” hit theaters in time for Halloween on October 29, 2004. It was competing against “The Grudge” in its second weekend, as well as “Ray,” which would end up winning Jamie Foxx an Oscar. It was a relatively stacked weekend, but that wasn’t a problem. Wan’s directorial debut opened to a strong $18.2 million, placing number three on the charts domestically. Against its tiny budget, that made it an immediate success.
Luckily though, word of mouth caught on as the movie garnered that “you need to see it to believe it” hype that can’t be bought. As a result, the film held strong in the coming weeks, even as big movies like “The Incredibles” and “National Treasure” opened. “Saw” finished its run with $55.2 million domestically to go with a very solid $47.9 million internationally for a grand total of $103 million globally. That equates to more than 85 times its production budget. Naturally, Lionsgate was very quick to green-light a sequel. With that, a new Halloween tradition was born.