Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Wrapup: Possession Leads Worst Weekend in 4 Years

by | September 9, 2012 | Comments

Tumbleweeds blew through North American multiplexes as the marketplace collapsed to its worst level in at least four years thanks to the end of the summer movie season and no new compelling films opening. Last week’s top two films The Possession and Lawless held onto their positions, the new Bradley Cooper film The Words debuted poorly in third, and most holdovers enjoyed relatively low declines. Still, the top ten failed to break $50M and the Top 20 barely inched over the $60M mark making for an ocean of empty seats.

The Possession became the first horror movie in three years to top the box office over back-to-back weekends as the Lionsgate hit scared up an estimated $9.5M in its sophomore session slipping 46%. That was a hold that any fright film would kill for and the fact that it was coming off of a holiday frame made it even more impressive. With no real competition from new releases and a months-long drought of scary movies, the supernatural thriller upped its ten-day total to a terrific $33.3M on its way to possibly $50M+. 2009’s The Final Destination was the last horror movie to rank number one over two straight weekends.

Distributor Lionsgate is on a hot streak and has owned the number one spot for four consecutive weekends now with two frames a piece for Possession and The Expendables 2. Add in the four-week reign that The Hunger Games had back in the spring and the company has held the top spot for eight total frames in 2012 – the most of any studio. It’s also as many as Warner Bros., Fox, and Paramount combined.

The weekend after Labor Day is always one of the slowest frames of the entire year at the North American box office. Kids are back to school, the NFL football season starts, and studios usually avoid opening anything big. But this year was exceptionally poor. It was the first weekend in four years where no film managed to break the $10M mark. The last time was this very session in 2008 when Nicolas Cage’s Bangkok Dangerous opened at number one with a puny $7.8M. The Top 20 sank to only $60.2M that year with this weekend seeing a similar funk at a dreadful $60.6M. If estimates fall when final numbers are reported Monday, this weekend could end up as the worst in nine years. This same frame in 2003 saw Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star bowing in the top spot with $6.7M leading the Top 20 to a sad $59.7M. Some studio muscle will try to revive the box office next weekend with the openings of Sony’s Resident Evil: Retribution and Disney’s 3D release of Finding Nemo. Both open Friday in roughly 2,900 theaters.

The moonshine flick Lawless enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend slipping 40% to an estimated $6M as it retained second place. Released by The Weinstein Co., the Shia LaBeouf pic has grossed a modest $23.5M from a very wide release in 3,138 theaters averaging only $1,913 per location this weekend.

Audiences showed little interest in the new Bradley Cooper drama The Words which opened in third place with an estimated $5M from 2,801 locations for a poor $1,785 average. The PG-13 film co-starring Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, and Jeremy Irons failed to generate any excitement with moviegoers and bad reviews didn’t help. Older women made up the core audience for the CBS Films release with research showing that 58% of the crowd was female and 78% was 25 and older. A CinemaScore grade of B indicates that the road ahead will not be easy for Words which was acquired at Sundance this year for $2M.

August action sequels rounded out the top five. The Expendables 2 fell 47% to an estimated $4.8M giving Lionsgate $75.4M to date. Universal’s spy thriller The Bourne Legacy cracked the $100M mark over the weekend with an estimated $4M in its fifth round. The Jeremy Renner pic declined by 44% and raised its domestic total to $103.7M. The actor has now been in three different franchise films over the past nine months that reached nine-digit territory with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Avengers being the others.

A pair of PG-rated kidpics followed. The animated ParaNorman slipped 42% to an estimated $3.8M while Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green dropped by the same amount to an estimated $3.7M. Totals are $45.1M for the Focus toon and $43M for the Jennifer Garner starrer.

Will Ferrell’s political comedy The Campaign held up well dipping 38% to an estimated $3.5M pushing the sum to $79.5M for Warner Bros. Despite virtually no new competition, The Dark Knight Rises suffered one of the largest drops in the top ten falling 46% to an estimated $3.3M for a domestic cume of $437.8M thus far. Overseas saw another $13M boosting the international total to $603.4M and the global gross to a stunning $1.04 billion. China stands at $42M after only two weeks and will soon become the film’s second biggest offshore market after the U.K. Grossing an identical $3.3M domestically was the hit documentary 2016 Obama?s America which dropped 36% giving the Rocky Mountain release $26.1M so far.

A pair of notable films opened outside of the top ten to varying degrees of success. With zero degrees, Lionsgate’s kidnapping thriller The Cold Light of Day with Henry Cavill and Bruce Willis bowed to dismal results with an estimated $1.8M from 1,511 locations for a wimpy $1,191 average. The leftover title from the company’s acquisition of Summit did not get a big promo push and was quietly slotted into what is always one of the slowest frames of the entire year.

With a new and annoyingly long title, Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark: The IMAX Experience saw a solid bow with an estimated $1.7M from 267 higher-priced IMAX locations for a $6,461 average. Paramount scheduled an exclusive one-week-only run to give fans the big-screen experience and help hype the Blu-ray release of all four Indiana Jones films which hit stores later this month.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $46.9M which was down a sizable 23% from last year when Contagion debuted at number with $22.4M; and down 24% from 2010 when Resident Evil: Afterlife opened on top with $26.7M.