This weekend, the end-of-summer blues kicked in as the North American box office slumped to its worst performance of the year. Three new films failed to make any significant dent into the marketplace while the political documentary 2016 Obama’s America enjoyed a strong national expansion jumping into the top ten. Sylvester Stallone’s action sequel The Expendables 2 topped the charts for the second straight weekend as holdovers took up the top six chart positions. It’s been ten years since the weekend before the Labor Day frame saw such poor grosses from new releases and the first time all year that no film opened in the top five. With people salvaging the last days of their summer vacations, football back for pre-season action, and very few must-see films in theaters, audiences stayed away as the total weekend box office failed to crack $100M for the first time in 2012.
The macho heroes of The Expendables 2 did what they did two years ago — control the number one spot for two weekends in a row. The R-rated actioner grossed an estimated $13.5M and was the only movie to break double digit millions. Lionsgate saw a 53% decline which was good for an action sequel and boosted its ten-day gross to $52.3M. The first Expendables had a bigger debut and then dropped by 51% in its sophomore session for a ten-day tally of $65.4M. Produced for $90M, Expendables 2 seems on course to finish its domestic run in the vicinity of $80M.
Holding steady in second place was Universal’s own action sequel ParaNorman which held up very well, dropping 39% to an estimated $8.5M for a cume of $28.3M after ten days. The 3D Focus release may end up with $50-55M which is a solid figure for a toon not based on a pre-existing brand. Falling a reasonable 43% in its third round, the Will Ferrell comedy The Campaign followed with $7.4M. Warner Bros. has banked $64.5M to date.
The trilogy-ending super hero smash The Dark Knight Rises climbed back into the top five thanks to a light 35% dip to an estimated $7.2M. That was about even with the 36% slide that 2008’s The Dark Knight saw in its sixth frame which was also the weekend before the Labor Day holiday session. Holding up well for a threequel, Rises now sits at number 11 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters passing the $415M of the 3D toon Toy Story 3. Batman gets his ticket into the top ten on Monday when it will surpass the $422.8M lifetime gross of The Lion King.
Audiences around the world continued to come out for Bane and pals as Rises smashed two more barriers — $500M overseas and $900M worldwide. The weekend saw an estimated $15.3M from 62 foreign markets pushing the overseas tally to $519M and the worldwide haul to $941.2M. With $82.1M in the United Kingdom, Rises surpassed The Avengers to become that market’s top grosser of 2012 and biggest super hero film of all-time. That’s an amazing achievement given that there were no 3D surcharges and the distraction of the London Olympics were there. With Christopher Nolan’s final Batman set to open Monday in China and Wednesday in Italy, it could smash the one billion dollar global mark by Labor Day. The director’s trilogy has now amassed a stunning $2.3 billion around the world.
Disney’s family drama The Odd Life of Timothy Green has been a modest success and slipped only 34% in its sophomore session to an estimated $7.1M. The PG-rated film has grossed $27.1M in 12 days and looks headed towards $45-50M.
The fast-paced bike messenger thriller Premium Rush led the weak crop of new releases with a seventh place debut grossing an estimated $6.3M. The Joseph Gordon-Levitt-starrer earned good reviews from film critics but averaged a slow $2,794 from 2,255 theaters. Sony’s PG-13 release skewed 55% male and 67% over 25, according to studio research, and moviegoers were not too amazed by the boy wonder as the CinemaScore grade was a mediocre B.
The political documentary 2016: Obama’s America enjoyed a strong nationwide expansion and jumped into the top ten with an estimated $6.2M from only 1,091 theaters, up from last weekend’s 169 locations. Released by Rocky Mountain, the PG-rated pic that examines how the re-election of the president would be harmful to the nation generated the best average of any film in the Top 20 with $5,718. Total stands at $9.1M and with two weeks of political conventions coming up and the film gaining media attention, much more is likely to come with 2016 on its way to possibly reaching $30M or more — a gargantuan number for a doc.
Appealing to a core audience of conservatives who do not want Obama to win another term in office, 2016 originally took a low-key approach with its July 13 release in one solo Texas theater where it debuted with a muscular $31,610. It then expanded slowly and saw grosses get diluted down. But now with the Republican political convention set to start this week, the distributor strategically went nationwide making the film accessible in all markets to all who are interested since that party’s agenda will be dominating news coverage. The doc has used a low-cost marketing approach with a faith-based push and conservative talk radio to reach its target audience and will now widen its base to eventually bring in dollars from liberals who want to know how their candidate is being vilified. Michael Moore used a similar approach in the election year of 2004 attracting business from blue states and red states alike with the anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 which opened at number one thanks to heavy controversy on its way to $119.2M, making it the top-grossing documentary by far of all-time. The president bashed by the film won re-election that year.
Mature audiences continued to turn out for the Meryl Streep-Tommy Lee Jones comedy Hope Springs which slipped only 34% to an estimated $6M for a cume of $45M to date for Sony. Rounding out the top ten was the new R-rated action-comedy Hit & Run which was ignored by moviegoers opening with a lousy $4.7M, according to estimates, for a weak $1,629 average from a very wide $2,870 locations. The Open Road release started its run on Wednesday and has collected only $5.9M in five days. Reviews were mixed for the Kristen Bell-Dax Shepard film and public interest was never high at all.
Also dead on arrival was the new supernatural thriller The Apparition which was given a more scaled-back release in 810 locations and found itself with an estimated $3M for a lukewarm $3,648 average. Reviews were negative across the board for the PG-13 haunted house flick and even though there was zero competition from other scary movies, audiences still saw no need to pay top dollar for this product.
The indie comedy Sleepwalk With Me scored a spectacular platform debut this weekend grossing an estimated $65,000 in only one Manhattan location. The critically-acclaimed film won the audience award at Sundance this year and director/star Mike Birbiglia supported the film by appearing at Friday and Saturday shows. IFC Films will expand Sleepwalk this Friday into many more markets for the long holiday weekend including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas, and expand further throughout September.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $76.3M which was up 10% from last year when The Help held onto the number one spot with $14.5M; but down 13% from 2010 when Takers opened on top with $20.5M.
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