A better-than-expected summer box office comes to a close over the four-day Labor Day holiday frame with the release of four new films plus the national expansion of a fifth title. Pushing and shoving their way into the multiplexes are Vin Diesel‘s action entry Babylon A.D., the spoof comedy Disaster Movie, Don Cheadle‘s spy thriller Traitor, and the raunchy comedy College. Going nationwide after a mediocre limited bow last week is the indie comedy Hamlet 2. The final weekend of summer usually finds moviegoers playing catch-up and flocking to big hits they just haven’t had time to see yet. Some of the more popular holdover pics should continue to see solid numbers including heavyweight champ The Dark Knight which will crash through the $500M barrier this weekend.
It seems like every four years we get the Summer Olympics, a presidential election, and … a Vin Diesel action movie? It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. The rugged hero’s last action vehicle let loose on the American public was The Chronicles of Riddick which attacked theaters in June 2004 before the Athens Games and John Kerry’s Boston convention. The star of The Pacifier returns to familiar territory with the sci-fi flick Babylon A.D. which will target Diesel’s usual core audience of young males. The commercially-friendly PG-13 rating will allow the pic to reach young teen boys at a time when the main action offerings Death Race and Tropic Thunder carry R ratings.
By no means is Babylon a strong option though. Even its director Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika) wants nothing to do with the final product. The marketing push has been ramped up in the last week so awareness is increasing and television spots are highlighting the special effects which are not all too impressive, but good enough for this time of year when standards are at a 52-week low. The combination of a brand name star returning to his bread and butter genre with a rating that will allow all of the target audience in should make for what could be a number one debut. Although Fox has had by far the worst summer of any major studio, it can at least end the season breathing a sigh of relief salvaging its first and only summer weekend at number one. Babylon A.D. launches very wide in over 3,200 theaters on Friday and could generate around $17M over the four-day weekend.
With more comedies hitting the multiplexes, a substantial decline for The House Bunny is likely to occur. Following its strong debut, the Sony release’s four-day figure could fall 30% to about $10M and push the 11-day cume to $30M. Universal’s Jason Statham actioner Death Race will also fall sharply in its second round thanks to the arrival of Vin Diesel. Look for a 40% drop to $7.5M pushing the total to $25M after 11 days.
The Dark Knight may actually see its grosses rise this weekend. People who never got around to seeing it, plus those just aching to see it again, will line up in strong numbers over the final summer weekend. Late summer’s top blockbusters often see their four-day Labor Day weekend grosses inch up over the previous frame. Last year, The Bourne Ultimatum increased by 7% while the previous year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest climbed 24%. The Caped Crusader could rise by 15% and capture around $12M across the Friday-to-Monday span for its seventh session in the top five. That would allow The Dark Knight to shatter the $500M mark on Sunday after just 45 days of release and finish the holiday frame at $505M.
LAST YEAR: Rob Zombie‘s new take on the horror classic Halloween set a new Labor Day opening weekend record by scaring up a sturdy $30.6M over four days leading the overall marketplace to its highest gross ever for the summer-ending holiday frame. The MGM release went on to finish with an impressive $58.3M. The teen comedy Superbad dropped to second with $15.9M in its third lap. Focus bowed the ping pong comedy Balls of Fury in third with $14.1M and $17.1M across its five-day opening frame. A $32.9M final would result. Rounding out the top five were The Bourne Ultimatum and Rush Hour 3 with $13.4M and $10.8M, respectively. Fox’s action entry Death Sentence bowed in eighth with just $5.3M on its way to a weak $9.5M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com