Weekend Box Office – THE LAST EXORCISM Leads with $21.3 Million; TAKERS a Close Second; AVATAR Re-Release Not So Special

     August 29, 2010

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Two new releases hit theatres on this, the penultimate weekend of summer. A refreshing change from the FIVE films we were handed one week ago. Both The Last Exorcism and Takers performed above expectations – earning an estimated $21.3 million and $21 million, respectively. Though, overall, theatre attendance was down by 2009 standards. And what of that Special Edition of Avatar? It just missed the top ten with an estimated $4 million. January was a long time ago…

Title Weekend Total
1 Last Exorcism $21,300,000 $21.3
2 Takers $21,000,000 $21
3 The Expendables $9,500,000 $82
4 Eat Pray Love $7,000,000 $60.7
5 The Other Guys $6,600,000 $99.3
6 Vampires Suck $5,300,000 $27.9
7 Inception $5,105,000 $270.7
8 Nanny McPhee Returns $4,740,000 $17
9 The Switch $4,650,000 $16.4
10 Piranha 3D $4,300,000 $18.2

The two films that crown this weekend’s top ten were, to some extent, unknown quantities. Neither was in 3D, neither was tracking especially well and neither was guaranteed a big first weekend. In the end it looks like the numbers were on the side of Lionsgate’s The Last Exorcism.  In more ways than one.

First, the PG-13 Exorcism debuted in over 660 more locations than Takers. It’s advertising, which featured producer Eli Roth’s name prominently, played up the film’s faux-documentary style, presumably to capitalize on the success of Paranormal Activity. Still, Roth isn’t exactly a household name and the film failed to do as well as either The Haunting in Connecticut, which made $23 million in its March ’09 debut, or The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which took in $30 million in 2005.

But the real number to pay attention to is this: $1.8 million. That’s The Last Exorcism’s production budget. Lionsgate paid an additional $1 million in acquisition fees and started an effective viral marketing campaign which emphasized the film’s Blair Witch-esque “found footage” premise. My point is: this movie was cheap. Real cheap. And the fact that it didn’t make it past $30 million is largely irrelevant. Lionsgate will make out big. Not to mention that, in addition to The Expendables, their logo currently graces two of the top three films in the country.

The Last Exorcism may have had a sizable screen count advantage but the heist movie Takers actually had a higher per-screen average. With $21 million from 2,206 locations, the Sony/Screen Gems release saw about $9,519 per venue. In fact, the estimates for the two top films are close enough that Takers could conceivably overtake Exorcism when Monday’s final numbers come out.

Takers managed to turn around the recent trend of action-oriented, ensemble pics that failed in spectacular fashion. See: 2010’s The Losers, which had a lifetime gross nearly equivalent to the Takers first weekend; and Sony/Screen Gem’s own Armored. That title earned an initial $6.5 million on its way to a grand total of $15.9 domestic.

In holdover news, The Expendables fell an estimated 44%, bringing its domestic cume just over the film’s $80 million production budget. With a new total of $99.3 million, The Other Guys is steadily closing on Step Brothers’ $100.4 million gross, which would make it Will Ferrell’s second highest-grossing release behind Talladega Nights. This week Inception fell off another negligible percentage, 35%, and managed to climb from number nine to this week’s number seven. As for the crapa-palooza that comprised last weekend’s new releases? Both Lottery Ticket and Vampires Suck fell off in spectacular fashion: 62% and 57%, respectively.

After the all-Avatar January edition of Collider’s box office report, I had hoped to put the hyperbole of the world’s biggest movie behind me. This week’s oddly-timed Special Edition re-release has now made that impossible. Coming, as it did, only weeks after the DVD release, the Special Edition could only drum up an estimated $4 million from its 800 plus 3D screens; earning it a spot at number twelve and a screen average just shy of $5,000. Let that be the end then. Until the sequel… and maybe the five year anniversary and the… oh hell, I’ll never be rid of Avatar, will I?

The countdown to the end of summer begins on Wednesday with the release of George Clooney’s The American, while Friday will see Justin Long and Drew Barrymore getting cute in Going the Distance. Finally, we have the long, long awaited release of Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. Let’s hope it is half as awesome as the fake trailer that inspired it.

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