Weekend Box Office: The Possession Takes Control Of Labor Day Weekend With $17.7 Million

Opening the box unleashed a horrific curse. Is it A) More movies starring Katherine Heigl, B) More movies starring Kate Hudson, or C) More movies starring Kristen Stewart?

When it comes to cheap studio horror you pretty much have to royally screw up the marketing if it fails at turning a profit while still in theaters. Sam Raimi’s Ghost House shingle has been proficient in turning out hit after hit for quite a while now. The Possession‘s $17.7M opening is the sixth GH release to open at #1.

The Possession‘s Labor Day Weekend arrival, after previously being on the bubble for a release last fall, was a choice pick, as its PG-13 rating ensured one last summer thrill for kids going, or who have already spent a week, back at school. While horror titles are frontloaded for their opening weekends, The Possession‘s Cinemascore rating of a B could suggest that this may make $10-$12M more before Mila Jovovich does her Resident Evil thing again. As of now, I’ve lost count on how many RE movies there are.

Settling for silver is a film that had its release last Wednesday. Lawless could be an example of faulty marketing. The trailers promoting the film made it look too glossy, which is probably what The Weinstein Company wanted considering that the last two films of John Hillcoat (The Proposition and The Road) are anything but glossy. No rosy pictures there. As to what genre it falls into, you can label it a western or gangster film if you like, but it’s a Prohibition drama to go alongside the likes of Miller’s Crossing and The Untouchables. Lawless, believe or not, is the unofficial launch of the prestige season of new releases. Those vying for plaudits and bragging rights, though the true measure of a film is how many embrace it as a whole, going as far to add it to their DVD or Blu-ray collection. A Beautiful Mind may have won Best Picture in 2001, but I’d take Spirited Away, Amelie, or Mulholland Drive over it. But the majority of people have probably never heard of those, unlike Ron Howard’s not-quite-opus.

Also not helping Lawless box office-wise is that its stars, Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy, are coming from projects that are associated with toys, action figures, cartoons, and comic books. And I don’t think the kiddies would be asking mom and dad to see a film about bootlegging this weekend. Hopefully by the time Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep opens next Spring LaBeouf will have finally grown some facial hair so he appears more mannish.

Dropping from first to third was The Expendables 2. It’s lumbering its way to a $90M domestic finish but it still is a few weeks away from obtaining that figure. As it is now, the $100M budget feature has amassed $132M worldwide and the domestic and international totals mirror each other with $66M in the States and overseas. Having recently watched The Last Action Hero, I almost get a sense that that was really a prequel to the whole Expendables experience. If only Arnold Schwarzenegger was allowed to go by the name Jack Slater and Bruce Willis as McClane it may have worked. Though trying to convince audiences that Stallone was the real star of Terminator 2: Judgment Day would be a stretch. That action-comedy had movie references and in-jokes that would be appreciated by Schwarzenegger fans and action fans alike. So it comes as no surprise that Shane Black is one of writers credited with the screenplay. One can only hope that the success of Iron Man 3 will allow Black to churn out more buddy-cop romps every bit as good as Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Might I suggest taking at stab at The Expendables 3?

The Bourne Legacy is nearing $100M, which used to be the total that used to cement a film’s complete success. That was when movies didn’t cost as much and a film’s total gross equated to butts in the seats, not gimmicks like 3D or anything requiring an extra surcharge. Jeremy Renner still isn’t a star, but he’s had a presence in a string of hits (The Town, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and Marvel’s The Avengers), especially that last one – more on that later. Tony Gilroy, who took over the directing duties after Paul Greengrass helmed the last two featuring Matt Damon, probably could have made the movie for less than its $120M production price if he cut a few corners here and there. But I don’t doubt that it will be gobbled up on DVD and Blu-ray, either as a purchase or a Redbox rental.

Going back to school means a shortage of kid flicks in release. Both ParaNorman and The Odd Life of Timothy Green continue to be relevant to the top 10 discussion simply because there’s nothing else out there for kids 12 and under. The stop-motion animated horror comedy homage and the family weepie should top out above $50M, which is decent enough, though I think ParaNorman could have made $70-$80M if it could have had a plum release weekend in the fall.

Hark, The Dark Knight Rises has risen to be one of the ten biggest domestic releases all-time. And it crossed the $1B mark worldwide. Internationally, the totals have surpassed the numbers that The Dark Knight amassed, but that film also had a bigger domestic haul ($500+ million vs. $400+ million). If it weren’t for those pesky Avengers, Batman could have ruled the summer. But Marvel’s The Avengers made history crossing $1.5 million due to one last weekend of expansion before it makes hundreds of millions more through DVD and Blu-ray sales beginning Sept. 25th.

For those wondering about that Obama documentary playing in theaters, it was wedged between The Campaign and Hope Springs. The Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis (suck it Spell Check!) political comedy won’t make it to nine figures but it performed well enough for Warner Bros. Look for the studio to unleash it on the public as a home video release sometime this fall, maybe even November 6th (ahem, Election Day). 2016 Obama’s America saw expansion to 1750 theaters and has managed to make close to $20M in eight weeks. Rounding out the top ten is the underperforming Meryl Streep comedy, which just made it past $50M in four weeks.

Though it was far from a Top 10 finisher, some attention must be given to The Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure. The reason is its performance, or its lack of performance. Debuting at 2160 theaters, it netted a per-screen average of $207. I believe that makes it the lowest opening for a wide release ever. Finally, parents planted their feet and didn’t give in to the wants of their kids. Perhaps it was the ads promoting an interactive adventure that involved throngs of kids singing, yelling and dancing at the screen. As former pro-wrestler Steve Austin succinctly put it, “OH HELL NO!!” Poor Cary Elwes being attached to this kid flick. He’d be better off venturing into the Fire Swamp again, ROUSes be damned.

Off the beaten path, otherwise known as movies in limited release, Celeste & Jesse Forever got a massive boost adding 471 theaters. It finished with weekend with $698K. For a Good Time, Call… collected $141K at 23 locations, while Drafthouse Films’ The Ambassador opened on four screens and earned $11.9K. One last notable is IFC Films’ Sleepwalk with Me. The semi-autobiographical comedy made an impressive $331K at 24 locations, having expanded from one location a week before. Remember to check out an indie release whenever possible. You may walk away surprised.

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