Moviegoers had football on their minds for the second straight weekend as Disney’s true-life NFL tale "Invincible" remained atop the North American box office over the long Labor Day holiday weekend finishing off another summer movie season. New releases "Crank" and "The Wicker Man" opened in second and third, respectively, while the critically acclaimed films "Little Miss Sunshine" and "The Illusionist" both scored strong per-theater averages in moderate release. The holiday frame marked the first weekend in six long months where no new film debuted with at least $15M. Hollywood was happy to close the books on a summer movie season that was slightly better than than last year’s.
Retaining its first-place position, Mark Wahlberg‘s "Invincible" grossed an estimated $15.2M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend and remained the most popular movie in North America. After 11 days of release, the feel-good drama about a 30-year-old bartender who earned a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles starting lineup has grossed a solid $37.8M and could be headed for the neighborhood of $60-70M.
It was only fitting that Disney topped the box office charts as the summer came to an end. Since the summer movie season kicked off on May 5 with "Mission: Impossible III," Buena Vista has grossed $786M at the multiplexes beating out all other studios. Disney’s success was powered by the summer’s two highest grossing hits, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" ($414.2M) and "Cars" ($242M), but also included surprise late-summer winners like "Invincible" and "Step Up." It was a drastic turnaround from last summer when the Mouse House’s biggest film was "Herbie: Fully Loaded" with $66M.
Opening in second place was action star Jason Statham‘s new thriller "Crank" with an estimated $13M over four days from 2,515 theaters. Averaging a commendable $5,169 per site, the R-rated film features a poisoned hitman who will die if he can’t keep his adrenaline up constantly. The Lionsgate release opened better than Statham’s 2002 film "The Transporter" ($9.1M in three days) but did not reach the $20.1M bow of his action sequel "Transporter 2" which ruled the Labor Day frame a year ago. That number one hit carried a commercially friendly PG-13 rating and kicked its way into 800 more theaters. Over the Friday-to-Sunday span, "Crank" grossed $10.3M and averaged $4,095.
Nicolas Cage opened his new suspense thriller "The Wicker Man" close behind in third place with an estimated $11.7M in ticket sales over the Friday-to-Monday holiday session. The Warner Bros. remake about a cop who investigates a missing girl averaged a mediocre $4,210 from 2,784 theatrs over four days. The PG-13 film grossed $9.6M in three days for a mild average of $3,448. Cage appeared twice in the top ten as his previous film "World Trade Center" finished further down in ninth place.
Two smaller films successfully expanding into national release followed and scored the best averages among all the wide releases. Fox Searchlight’s road comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" ranked fourth for the weekend with an estimated $9.7M over four days with $7.6M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion. It was the second weekend in a row that actor Greg Kinnear had two films in the top five. He plays a supporting role in "Invincible" as well. "Sunshine" averaged a strong $6,071 from 1,602 theaters over four days pushing its total to $35.8M and counting. At its current rate, it should eventually surpass "Miami Vice" as the top-grossing R-rated film to come out of the summer.
Rookie distributor Yari Film Group did an excellent job expanding its period mystery "The Illusionist" into national release and jumped into fifth place with an estimated four-day gross of $8M. Expanding from 144 to 971 theaters, the Edward Norton–Paul Giamatti drama scored the best average in the top ten with a sturdy $8,261 per venue. Cume now stands at $12.1M. The distributor scored excellent averages during its two weeks in limited release allowing positive word-of-mouth to spread for a film that was not easy to sell at a time when there were plenty of good choices for mature adults. Another 400 theaters will be added on Friday.
A trio of comedies followed. Sony’s Will Ferrell hit "Talladega Nights" grossed an estimated $7.7M over four days and lifted its cume to a stellar $138.4M making it the top-grossing comedy of the summer. Paramount’s animated pic "Barnyard" took in an estimated $6.4M pushing its total to $63.6M. The teen flick "Accepted" placed eighth and collected an estimated $5.9M giving Universal $29.4M to date.
Rounding out the top ten were the 9/11 drama "World Trade Center" with an estimated $5.8M over four days and the dance saga "Step Up" with $5.5M, according to estimates. Paramount’s Oliver Stone film has taken in a solid $63.7M thus far while Buena Vista’s surprise hit has taken in $58.4M.
Opening quietly outside of the top ten was the street basketball drama "Crossover" with an estimated $4.5M over four days from a moderate release in 1,023 theaters. Sony averaged a decent $4,399 over the long weekend on the $6M film which played mostly to a young urban audience.
Platforming to muscular numbers was the IFC Films doc "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" which grossed an estimated $42,000 from solo houses in New York and Los Angeles for a potent $20,832 average. The unrated expose that examines the ratings board of the MPAA will continue to expand throughout September.
Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The raunchy comedy "Beerfest" tumbled to an estimated $4.6M over four days giving Warner Bros. only $14.8M in 11 days. A $20M final seems likely. Universal’s OutKast pic "Idlewild" took in an estimated $2.9M in its sophomore session giving the music-driven film only $9.9M in 11 days. Look for a $14M conclusion. New Line’s buzzworthy action-horror pic "Snakes on a Plane" has scared up just over $31M to date and is set to end with a final domestic gross close to its $35M production budget.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $89M over four days which was down 3% from last year when "Transporter 2" debuted at number one with $20.1M; but up 19% from 2004 when "Hero" remained in the top spot with $11.5M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com