This weekend, the summer movie season saw its first – and last – horror title to debut at number one with the devilish thriller The Last Exorcism which edged out an equally impressive debut by the heist thriller Takers which enjoyed a solid bow of its own in second place while playing in fewer theaters. With a razor-thin $300,000 margin between the two, rankings could change on Monday when final grosses are counted. Characteristic of the final weekend of August, box office sales slumped to their worst level of the entire summer with the top ten failing to break the $100M mark – and even the $90M mark – for the first time all season.
The mock documentary The Last Exorcism scared up big numbers at number one grossing an estimated $21.3M from 2,874 theaters for a sturdy $7,411 average per location. Rated PG-13, the Lionsgate release downplayed the doc format in its marketing and used Hostel director Eli Roth’s name in the ads as the presenter to help pull in fans of hardcore horror. Opening night audiences were turned off by what they got – probably differing greatly from what they expected – as sales fell sharply on Saturday by a troubling 24%. Reviews were particularly good for a film of this genre, however.
The urban action thriller Takers also enjoyed a surprisingly potent debut grossing an estimated $21M this weekend from a not-so-extravagantly-wide 2,206 playdates for a sizzling $9,519 average leading all films in wide release. The PG-13 film about a cop investigating a criminal enterprise stars Matt Dillon who got top billing, but was mostly absent from the marketing materials like trailers and posters. The heist film, which also stars Idris Elba, Paul Walker, rapper T.I., and singer Chris Brown, was not expected to be much of a force, especially given its late August release slot, but excited action fans of all ethnicities with starpower and style. The two music stars also were executive producers. It caps off a sensational summer for Sony which has had no losers this season.
Sylvester Stallone’s two-week run at the top ended but The Expendables still held up relatively well for an action title dropping 44% to an estimated $9.5M bumping the 17-day total to $82M for Lionsgate. The distributor has commanded the number one spot for three weeks in a row now thanks to Stallone and Exorcism. Sony enjoyed a slightly smaller decline for its estrogen flick Eat Pray Love which grossed an estimated $7M, down 42%, for a $60.7M cume.
The hit comedy The Other Guys followed in fifth with a slim dip of only 35% to an estimated $6.6M thanks to a marketplace with few big comedy alternatives. Total is $99.3M. Tumbling 57% to an estimated $5.3M, the spoof pic Vampires Suck gave Fox a mediocre $27.9M sum to date.
The mind-bending smash Inception grossed an estimated $5.1M in its seventh weekend of release, off 35%, and lifted the total to $270.7M. That puts the Leonardo DiCaprio thriller at number 48 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters just behind the $277.3M of last summer’s The Hangover. The family sequel Nanny McPhee Returns followed its weak debut with another disappointing frame collecting an estimated $4.7M, dropping 44%. Universal has taken in a dismal $17M in ten days from North America.
Playing to an equally small audience was Jennifer Aniston’s comedy The Switch which fell 45% in its second weekend to an estimated $4.7M giving Buena Vista just $16.5M in ten days. The horror entry Piranha 3D tumbled 57% in its sophomore outing to an estimated $4.3M. The Weinstein Co. has collected only $18.3M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $89.5M which was down 15% from last year when The Final Destination opened in the top spot with $27.4M; but up 31% from 2008 when Tropic Thunder stayed at number one for the third week in a row with $11.5M.
Written by Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru.