Moviegoers ended their summer by spreading dollars across a wide variety of films helping the North American box office deliver a record-breaking Labor Day holiday frame. An astonishing 26 different films grossed more than $1M over the Friday-to-Monday weekend with two of them making a legitimate claim to the number one spot. Traditionally, the holiday is judged by the four-day period which saw the popular White House drama The Butler spend its third consecutive term in the top position. However over the three-day Friday-to-Sunday period, the rapidly-eroding boy band doc One Direction: This Is Us was the leader. Regardless, the box office broke the old Labor Day weekend record set back in 2007 as the Top 20 grossed over $140M across four days.
The durable White House drama The Butler was once again the most popular draw in its third term with word-of-mouth continuing to take the film out to new audiences. The Weinstein Co. hit took in an estimated $20M over four days upping the cume to a robust $79.3M. The Friday-to-Sunday portion dipped by only 10%. Look for a final tally of about $120M making it the surprise winner of this year’s big race between White House flicks beating out big-budget action pics Olympus Has Fallen ($98.9M) and White House Down ($72.4M). Butler is the first film of 2013 to spend three weeks at number one. The last movie to threepeat was The Hobbit in December.
Teen girls with short attention spans drove the boy band concert pic One Direction: This Is Us into the number two spot over the long holiday weekend, while also taking number one over the Friday-to-Sunday portion. The Sony release debuted to an estimated $18M over the Friday-to-Monday long weekend and averaged a decent $6,581 from 2,735 theaters helped in part by higher 3D ticket prices. Over the three-day span, its $15.8M edged out Butler’s $14.9M.
The zero-patience fan base came out upfront as sales were extremely frontloaded. Friday saw an opening day of $8.8M including $2.7M from Thursday night shows starting at 7pm. Then grosses collapsed 54% Saturday to $4.1M. The studio saw a 28% drop Sunday while competing films either rose or dipped by less than 10%. A Monday slide of 25% is projected although the four-day figure may fall below $18M when final grosses are all tabulated.
Direction was a one-quadrant hit as studio research showed that the audience was 87% female and 65% under 17. Fans liked what they saw – the CinemaScore grade was an encouraging A. It was a far better opening than last summer’s Katy Perry: Part of Me which bowed to $10.2M over a five-day holiday frame, but also well short of the $29.5M three-day launch of Justin Bieber’s pic released right before Valentine’s Day 2011. Reviews were generally positive. Overseas, One Direction scored a debut of $14.5M from a wide launch in 53 territories led by $5.7M including previews from the group’s home market of the U.K.
Taking in strong holdover biz was the popular comedy We’re the Millers with an estimated $15.9M over four days for third place. The three-day portion dipped a scant 3% from last weekend. That put the Warner Bros. release at $112.9M giving Jennifer Aniston the sixth $100M+ domestic grosser of her career. Also, Warner Bros. achieved an amazing feat as all six of its big summer releases have now grossed north of $100M domestically for a combined $894M from North America alone.
The kid marketplace remained dominated by Disney’s Planes which followed with an estimated $10.7M over the long weekend for $73.8M to date.
Lionsgate scored a huge hit in fifth place with a sensational debut for the Spanish-language family comedy Instructions Not Included which grossed an estimated $10M from only 347 theaters for a scorching $28,818 average. Driven by Latino audiences and targeted marketing, the PG-13 film about a playboy bachelor thrust into fatherhood connected with its target audience and earned a glowing A+ CinemaScore.
Sci-fi pic Elysium held up very well with an estimated $8.3M for a cume of $80.4M for Sony. Studio stablemate The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones followed with a large drop falling in its second weekend to an estimated $6.8M. Cume is a dull $24.3M.
A similar sophomore fate was in store for the British comedy The World’s End which grossed an estimated $6.1M. Focus has $17.9M to date. Next was the fantasy adventure Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters with an estimated $6.1M and a $56.6M sum for Fox.
The critically-panned kidnapping thriller Getaway failed to connect with paying audiences opening in tenth place to an estimated $5.5M. Averaging a weak $2,596 from 2,130 locations, the PG-13 film released by Warner Bros. and starring Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez also disappointed those who did come out and buy tickets earning a lackluster C+ grade from CinemaScore. Getaway is a prime example of the kind of film that studios quietly dump out at the end of the summer movie season knowing that is has zero chance of succeeding.
Two new wide releases from specialty distributors failed to make the top ten this weekend. The British crime thriller Closed Circuit bowed to just $3.1M over four days from 870 locations for a mild $3,607 average. Focus collected only $3.6M since its Wednesday launch. Reviews were mixed.
The Weinstein Co. went nationwide with its martial arts epic The Grandmaster after a week in platform release but found few takers. The Wong Kar Wai film grossed an estimated $3.1M from 749 sites for a $4,168 four-day average. Total is $3.3M.
Paramount’s double feature promotion for its summer action hits World War Z and Star Trek Into Darkness led to some extra late summer cash sending the Brad Pitt zombie flick into the double-century club. Surrounded by negative buzz in the months before its release, Z has since won over audiences and stands as the actor’s highest-grossing film ever both domestically ($200.6M) and worldwide ($532M). The latest Trek sits at $228.5M and $463M.
Also reaching a milestone this weekend was the mega-budgeted monster film Pacific Rim which finally crossed the $100M domestic mark thanks to Warner Bros. expanding it. North America is the second biggest market for the sci-fi pic with $100.3M as China has amassed a stellar $108.6M driving the global gross to $405M and counting.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $107.4M over four days which was up 6% from last year’s Labor Day frame when The Possession opened at number one with $21.1M; and up 8% from 2011 when The Help stayed in the top spot for a third time with $19.9M in its fourth frame.