Grosses for Labor Day weekend are about even with last week’s as well as the same as last year (always the weakest holiday), led by overperforming Lionsgate horror entry "The Possession," hitting the youth crowd, while Weinstein's "Lawless" is delivering at expected levels with a discrete older audience.
Several other films are holding well, as some ticket buyers catch up on films they missed while glued to the Olympics. Overall, the numbers are not discouraging heading into what is usually a slow period.
Of note, far below the Top 10, is the possibly record-breaking low performance far a wide release. The indie animated film " The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" opened Wednesday and grossed an incredibly low average of $207 per screen in over 2,100 theaters. That averages out, kids' ticket prices factored in, to fewer than 30 patrons per theater for the entire weekend. With a reported combined production and marketing cost of $60 million, this could be a new low in cost to return ratio.
1. "The Possession" (Lionsgate) – NEW Cinemascore: B; (Metacritic score: 46)
$17,725 in 2,816 theaters; PSA (6,294,000); Cumulative: $17,725,000
A low budget horror/thriller wide release is as de rigeur for Labor Day weekend as the start of college football, Telluride and the Muscular Dystrophy telethon. A horror film at #1 is no surprise, especially any time it's been a while since one opened.
With a budget of around $14 million, this looks like a solid money maker for Lionsgate and Sam Raimi's Ghost House Productions. For Raimi, whose roots were in horror films ("Evil Dead," "Darkman") long before becoming the Spider-Man auteur, this is another in a steady line of genre successes he has overseen. The biggest hit of these was "The Grudge," which grossed a terrific $110 million in 2004.
For Lionsgate, it's another day at the office — they reliably turn out several lower budget successes a year. Assuming this holds through the weekend, this will make seven weeks at number one for them so far this year, equaling Universal for the most at the top, with the next "Twilight" entry still to come.
Danish director Ole Bornedal, best known for both the original and US remake of "Nightwatch," returns to American filmmaking after four Danish films which got little or no domestic attention. This is a huge leap up for him in gross — the Miramax/Dimension "Nightwatch" only grossed a little over $1 million in 1998.
What comes next: The full weekend gross could be strong enough to make a sequel logical.
2. "Lawless" (Weinstein) – NEW (Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic score: 58)
$9,674,000 in 2,888 theaters; PSA: $3,350; Cumulative: $11,816,000
This was expected to be in a fairly close race for the #1 this weekend. With "The Possession" overperforming Friday and "Lawless" appealing more to older audiences who aren't reliable Friday attendees, the gap will tighten somewhat.
The third 2012 Cannes competition film to open in the US pre-Labor Day (the most in many years), it's the rare one to open wide ("Drive" and "Inglorious Basterds" were the two most recent). The Weinsteins might have considered a more conventional platform release, but with tepid reviews and Shia LaBoeuf in the lead, going wide seems to have been the right call. Also, this, like those two films, is an action film; it's set in the rural south of the 1930s as gangsters fight bootleggers for control.
The last seven of LaBoeuf's films opened at #1 — not just his tentpole starrers, but also "Wall Street Money Never Sleeps" and "Disturbia." This one rests more on him than the others (although Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain also add name value to the cast). The actor has stated an interest in focusing more on indie productions than big-budget ones for now, so this film is transitional for him.
For Australian director John Hillcoat, this easily outdistances his underperformer "The Road," which Weinstein pushed to $8 million in North America without ever passing 400 theaters in any one week. But it does not look like a breakout success.
Acquired just before Cannes by the Weinstein Co., the indie-financed film was produced by Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick ("Working Girl," "Gladiator," "Memoirs of a Geisha," Baz Luhrman "The Great Gatsby").
What comes next: The Weinsteins, after a post-"Artist" period where only "Intouchables" has kept them much in public view, now launches a much more expensive and high impact slate from now to the end of the year.
3. "The Expendables 2" (Lionsgate) – Week 3; Last Weekend: #1
$8,800,000 (-34%) in 3,334 theaters (-21); PSA: $2,639,000; Cumulative: $66,159,000
With a normal third week drop, similar to what its predecessor had, this is holding on well enough.
What comes next: Considering this had one less summer week than "The Expendables" and opened opposite the Olympics, ending up at not far behind its cost is a reasonable performance.
4. "The Bourne Legacy" (Universal) – Week 4; Last Weekend: #2
$7,200,000 (-22%) in 3,131 theaters (-523); PSA: $2,315; Cumulative: $96,200,00
Falling only 22%, this is a clear sign of life for this retooled series entry as word of mouth among adult audiences seems to be paying off.
What comes next: With domestic heading toward $120 million and most of the world yet to open, this looks like despite a $125 million budget, this still could slowly head into profitable territory.
5. "ParaNorman" (Focus) – Week 3; Last Friday: #3; Last Weekend: #3
$1,407,000 (-36%) in 3,085 theaters (-370); PSA: $456; Cumulative: $32,886,000
Another modest decline, but still falling off much faster than Laika Animation's earlier "Coraline."
What comes next: "Coraline" ended up at $75 million, up to 50% better than this will reach.
6. "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" (Buena Vista) – Week 3; Last Weekend: #6
6,055,000 (-15%) in 2,635 theaters (+37); PSA: $2,298; Cumulative: $35,900,000
A decent hold with a chance that the long holiday weekend could boost it further as the slowly is edging toward modest success.
What comes next: This has yet to open internationally, where its fate is uncertain, but with the relatively low budget for this family-oriented story, this looks like it could still be a modest success.
7. "The Dark Knight Rises" (Warner Brothers) – Week 7; Last Weekend: #5
$5,880,000 (-19%) in 2,187 theaters (-419); PSA: $2,689; Cumulative: $431,196,000
However much this lags behind "The Dark Knight," this is still finding new viewers with a very modest fall off as the total worldwide gets ever nearer the $1 billion mark.
What comes next: More emphasis on this film's big success rather than quibbles about its domestic total being a bit below the hoped for increase over the last one.
8. “The Campaign” (Warner Brothers) – Week 8; Last Weekend: #4
$5,445,000 (-27%) in 2,941 theaters (-361); PSA: $1,851; Cumulative: $73,022,000
Sticking around nicely despite dropping four places.
What comes next: This is going to get closer to $100 million than initially expected, though still a bit short.
9."2016 Obama's America" (Rocky Mountain) – Week 8; Last Friday: #4; Last Weekend: #7
$1,600,000 (-26%) in 1,750 theaters (+659); PSA: $914; Cumulative: $14,700,000
After a series of impressive weekdays where this ranked #3, even a substantial jump in theaters didn't prevent a substantial PSA falloff. Still, this has been an unexpectedly strong performer.
What comes next: Will Clint Eastwood's audition lead to an appearance in any sequel?
10. "Hope Springs" (Sony) – Week 4; Last Friday: #9; Last Weekend: #9
$4,700,000 (-18%) in 2,441 theaters (+39); PSA: $1,925; Cumulative: $52,057,000
A very solid performance as this quietly turns into another hit for the intrepid Meryl Streep.
What comes next: This will hang on for most of September climbing to a solid final gross.