With the arrival of the Labor Day holiday weekend, North American movie audiences breathed a collective "meh." Rather than waste time in a darkened movie theater, it was time to move on to other, more vital pursuits. College football kicked off its first weekend with some thrillers, and it was also a great time for that final outdoor hurrah before the reality of cold, rainy, wintry weather sets in. New films included All About Steve, Gamer and Extract, and they all performed about exactly as you would expect.
Labor Day Drops Movie World Back to Reality
By Kim Hollis
September 6, 2009
The number one movie of the weekend is not the comedy that features stars from two of the biggest surprise hits of the summer. It's also not the futuristic action flick with the hunky guy from 300. Instead, in a bit of a surprise, our biggest movie of the weekend is The Final Destination, repeating its position atop the charts for a second weekend in a row. The gory horror flick took in $12.4 million over the three-day portion of the weekend, which equals a drop of 55%. The movie has its 3-D screens and the holiday weekend to thank for its better-than-usual-for-the-genre performance. With a gross so far of $47.6 million, The Final Destination is only about $7 million away from being the top box office earner in the franchise, which will make Warner Bros. very happy indeed. It did carry a somewhat hefty budget of $43 million, but it's going to earn all that back and then some, especially once DVD is counted into the total. This probably guarantees that we're going to see The Final Final Destination or something like that.
That means that second place is reserved for the ill-conceived romantic comedy All About Steve. Originally planned as a March release, the studio eventually moved it to the Labor Day frame, which might actually have worked in its favor. The stars of the film are Bradley Cooper, who is coming off the summer comedy surprise The Hangover (almost $275 million domestic to date) and Sandra Bullock, who had the biggest movie of her career in The Proposal (just over $160 million to date). The combination of their talents did not mean big numbers, though, particularly since All About Steve is one of the most critically reviled movies of the year. It currently sits at 5% fresh at RottenTomatoes, with only four positive reviews out of 72 (and you almost have to wonder, given the comments in the negative reviews, what the positive reviewers were smoking). Even so, All About Steve managed to bring in a three-day total of $11.2 million from 2,251 venues, good for a per-location average of 4,976. This one is probably going to fade fast given the horrific critical response. The Bullock spell has faded quickly.
Inglourious Basterds continues to hold decently for the Weinsteins, thanks mainly to stellar word-of-mouth. Even those who have tired of director Quentin Tarantino's fast talking, uber-violent movies have had their curiosity piqued, especially given all the buzz about Christoph Waltz's performance. Over the three-day portion of the holiday weekend, Basterds took in $10.8 million, a decline of 44% from last weekend. So far, the movie has a grand total of $91 million, meaning that budgetary costs have been recouped and that Harvey and Bob have something to crow about. It seems certain that they'll push the film for a number of awards, too, which means that Inglourious Basterds will have a nice, slow, steady build to an excellent final total.
Fourth place goes to another of the new releases in Gamer, the futuristic actioner that stars Gerard Butler. Despite a frantic and frenetic advertising campaign, the violent-looking film could pretty much only hold steady with other movies that resemble it during the same release time frame, including Death Race and Crank (which is actually from the same directing/writing team. Gamer earned $9 million over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the weekend, and with a 2,502 venue debut, its per-location average was a blah $3,597. Gamer did fare better than All About Steve in the reviews department, though that might be only because fewer people have seen it. Currently, it has seven positive reviews out of 26, which means its Rotten Rating is 21%. Still, since it had a very slim budget of only $12 million, it's going to be profitable for Lionsgate, to the point that we can probably look for a direct-to-video sequel at the very least.
Fifth place goes to the great aliens-have-arrived flick District 9, the surprise sensation from director Neill Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson. District 9 continues to build on its outstanding buzz, as its three-day total of $7 million represents a drop of only 32%. It crossed the $100 million mark this weekend, which has to be a real thrill for the people involved in the film's creation. Its budget was only $30 million, and it's bound to be a huge earner on video in addition to its superb theatrical take.
Sixth and seventh place host two movies that couldn't be more opposite of each other, Rob Zombie's Halloween II and the yummy Julie & Julia. Halloween II took a massive tumble in its second weekend, particularly brutal when you consider that it should have had a bit of friendly inflation thanks to the holiday. The sequel to the re-imagining of the John Carpenter franchise earned $5.6 million and fell a brutal 66%. Never let it be said that there aren't Zombie fanboys. On the other end of the spectrum is the Meryl Streep/Amy Adams starrer Julie & Julia, which has been showing some world-class legs. This trend continued, with Julie & Julia falling only 26% to a three-day total of $5.2 million. So far, the movie has earned a wonderful $78.8 million and will almost certainly secure Ms. Streep yet another Academy Award nomination.
We have a similar case of opposites attracting in the eighth and ninth positions. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra continues to hold a spot in the charts with a $5.1 million total and a very solid 34% drop. Clearly, this is a film that is appealing to its target demographic (boys) and holding up well in spite of some awful reviews. Its current total of $139.4 million is still well short of its $175 million budget, but that's not going to be a problem once ancillary revenue - including toys - is factored in. Ninth place is home to The Time Traveler's Wife, the slightly disappointing romance starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. It had a three-day total of $4.2 million, good for a drop of only 35%. It might not be the movie that fans of the book were hoping for, but it does have a respectable domestic total of $54.6 million, easily earning back its budget of $39 million.
Finally, our tenth place film is our last new wide release, Mike Judge's Extract. There's something about Judge. He has a devoted following of fans, but there just aren't enough of them to propel his films to any significant box office performance. Extract, which stars Jason Bateman and Ben Affleck, boasts a decent 64% fresh rating (74 out of 115 reviews) at RottenTomatoes. It looks like Judge has delivered the goods, but Extract will have to hope for being a cult hit along the line's of the director's previous Office Space. With a three-day total of $4.2 million and per-location average of $1,611, it will fall off the charts quickly. Don't worry, Mike Judge. We still love you.
The top 12 movies performed quite solidly at the box office, particularly considering that this same weekend last year was not Labor Day weekend. The 2009 top 12 earned $79.4 million, a massive 58% increase over 2008's $50.3 million. Next weekend, we can look forward to four new releases. There's 9, the cool-looking animated film from producers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, featuring another appearance from Madea, Whiteout, a thriller based on a graphic novel, and Sorority Row, the latest horror-film-of-the-week.