Weekend Box Office – Worst Weekend in Four Years Led by THE POSSESSION

     September 9, 2012

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We told you yesterday that this weekend was on track to become the lowest-grossing frame of the year and the lowest-grossing frame since September 2008. Unfortunately, nothing came along to change that gloomy portrait after Sunday’s estimates were released. No film, including first-place holdover The Possession, managed to break ten million and only one new film reached half that amount.

Title Weekend Total
1. The Possession $9,500,000 $33.3
2. Lawless $6,002,000 $23.5
3. The Words $5,000,000 $5
4. The Expendables 2 $4,750,000 $75.4
5. The Bourne Legacy $4,038,000 $103.6
6. ParaNorman $3,830,000 $45
7. Odd Life of Timothy Green $3,650,000 $43
8. The Campaign $3,530,000 $79.4
9. The Dark Knight Rises $3,285,000 $437.8
10.  2016 Obama’s America $3,281,200 $26

the-words-movie-posterThe strongest of the weekend’s new releases (by a mile) was CBS Films’ The Words. The drama, featuring Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana, debuted in third place with an estimated $5 million from 2,801 locations. That is not a number any studio would be pleased with (earlier this week, projections were in the $6-$7.5 million range) but, considering the dismal state of the overall box office, it could have been worse. The Words cost $6 million and was acquired by CBS at Sundance for just $2 million. Financial exposure was, therefore, pretty minimal and CBS is hoping the film’s ‘B’ Cinemascore will give it legs as September progresses.

Also new to theatres this week was The Cold Light of Day, featuring Bruce Willis and Henry Cavill. Moving the thriller into this frame was a last minute decision by distributor Summit/Lionsgate, a fact made evident by the film’s distinct lack of marketing. As a consequence, The Cold Light of Day earned just $1.8 million from its 1,511 locations, putting it outside the top ten on this most uncompetitive of weekends.

the-cold-light-of-day-posterEarly September is not known for spawning blockbusters. It is the traditional home for smaller films, like Focus Features’ The Debt (2011) and The American (2010), both of which debuted below $15 million. Depending on when Labor Day falls, however, the post-holiday frame has also hosted bigger films like 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife ($26.6 million) and last year’s surprise hit Contagion, which opened to $22.4 million without Resident Evil 4’s 3D price advantage.

One look at this week’s top ten should tell you that we are very far from producing a surprise hit in 2012. In fact, overall grosses are down by approximately 13% over 2011 – and that from a weekend that already ranked as the lowest of last year. Aside from the success of Contagion, last year’s box office launched some of 2011’s most notorious misses, including Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star and Creature, which held the record for lowest per-screen average (at over 1,500 locations) until Oogieloves and the Big Balloon Adventure replaced it last week.

On a weekend of distressingly low grosses, it is easy to forget the little victories that are hidden amongst the top ten. First and foremost: The Possession. Although the supernatural thriller had the lowest first-place debut last weekend and the lowest overall first-place finish (holdover or new release) on this post-holiday frame, The Possession is already a winner for Lionsgate. The studio released a budget figure of $14 million for their PG-13 title and – with worldwide grosses approaching $40 million – that means The Possession is already turning a profit. The film also had a good hold on its second weekend: falling just 46% instead of the 60% (or higher) that is common for horror titles.

possession-posterWith The Possession on top for a second week in a row, that means that Lionsgate has held the number one spot at the box office for four consecutive weeks, beginning with The Expendables 2. So far, the sequel has earned a total $75.4 million at the domestic box office; a figure that still trails its predecessor’s $92.1 million total after four weeks. Another sequel worthy of note this weekend is The Bourne Legacy. Without a doubt, the fourth installment in Universal’s franchise is the financial inferior of all three previous titles and, with a reported budget of $125 million, cost nearly as much as the first two Bourne features combined. Still, Legacy reached an important benchmark by topping $100 million in domestic earnings this weekend, with $165 million worldwide.

After making news a week ago by breaking $1 billion in worldwide grosses, this weekend The Dark Knight Rises added another $3.2 million to bring its domestic total up to $437.8 million. That was enough to push the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy ahead of E.T: The Extra Terrestrial as the eighth most-successful feature of all-time.

Also making news (though of a much more marginal sort) is the documentary 2016 Obama’s America. After expanding its location count two weeks ago, the conservative feature has earned over $26 million in the US, making it the second highest-grossing political documentary of all-time (far) behind the $119.1 million of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

The last bit of news on this sorry weekend came from Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was re-issued in 267 IMAX locations. The 1981 classic earned an estimated $1.7 million to bring its lifetime domestic total up to $246.7 million (not adjusted for inflation). Next weekend will see another classic re-released (though this one will definitely make the top ten) as Pixar’s Finding Nemo returns in glorious 3D.

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