Labor Day Weekend is the land that interest forgot, and studios typically treat it like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. With kids going back to school and summer wrapping to a close, whatever Hollywood has left lying around gets thrown into theaters without thought to marketability. That's true of this week more than ever, and we're due for one of the lowest grossing weekends in ages.
Weekend Forecast for August 31-September 2, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
August 31, 2012
Likely to lead this turtle race is The Possession, by virtue of being the only new film not to open on Wednesday. Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick and a 12-year-old who had the misfortune to star on the TV version of the The Firm, it's a horror film (natch) about a girl who buys a mysterious engraved box that unleashes a demon from the underworld which proceeds to take control of her for nefarious purposes. When are people going to learn that yard sales are a tool of the devil?
Directed by a Danish guy who you've never heard of and was responsible for one of the lower grossing films in memory about a decade ago with Nightwatch (the Ewan McGregor one, not the Russian vampire thingy), it's relying more on the fact that Sam Raimi is one of the producers of the film. When horror films start promoting that far down into the credits, you know there's some issues with marketability and quality. Morgan is a solid actor but no draw, and his biggest shot, with The Losers, managed just $9 million in its opening weekend.
There would have been some reasons for optimism – the effects aren't too bad, and possession/exorcism movies have done pretty well in the last few years, although I think that might have finally been killed by The Devil Inside. The release date more or less seals the lack of faith in this film by the studio, and I'd look for around $8 million this weekend.
That's probably enough to beat Lawless, the only other serious contender of the new films this weekend. Set during the days of Prohibition in Virginia, it posits a gang of bootleggers led by Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf facing off against a hard-nosed sheriff played by a very plastic looking Guy Pearce. It's sort of like Public Enemies, but on a much smaller scale and with people you're way less interested in seeing than Johnny Depp.
LaBeouf is being positioned as the lead here, which makes sense in some way, since he's by far the best known name in the cast. However, it's tough to think of anyone less respected as a box office figure who's been in movies that have grossed $5 billion worldwide. I don't think anyone is under any illusions that he had anything whatsoever to do with those successes, and yet, Hollywood keeps trying to push him out there as a thing that people want to see. It's a nice hypothesis, but I don't think it really holds up. Meanwhile, Tom Hardy might actually be a bigger name at this point, but his largest exposure to this point was in a film where he spends the entire film with his face covered. Whoops. It's the greatest career move since James Marsden decided no one needed to see his eyes.
Lawless already opened on Wednesday, temporarily taking the number one spot, but just barely beating The Expendables 2. These mid-week openings tend to be heavily weighted towards that first day. We could be looking at a weekend of just $5 million, with about $7 million over five days.
Lastly, we have a bit of box office history in the making. Remember the title The Oogiloves in The BIG Balloon Adventure, for it is a title that will live in infamy. Debuting Wednesday in over 2,100 theaters, it made a grand total of $102,000, for a per theater average of $47, and assuming five screenings a day, about two tickets per showing. I'd suggest it to be a good place for nudists this weekend, except that it's a kid's film and will probably put you on a list somewhere.
So what exactly is an Oogilove? No one's quite sure and we are clearly afraid to find out, but it's a property that's from someone who has something to do with the Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine, and is trying to create a new franchise. This... does not appear to be happening for him, to say the least, and this is throwing well below even the modest sums that toddler movies normally make. The Barney movie, released at perhaps the height of that insipid show's reach, grossed just $2 million in its opening weekend. And still it looks positively Avatarian compared to this. There's a great deal of sense in this – toddlers don't make movie ticket buying decisions, and parents with a sense of self-preservation don't try to score own goals on their sanity by willingly going to these movies. And when it's something they've never even heard of? Well, you get the perfect storm like we've seen here.
With a shockingly large budget of $20 million, and a very random seeming collection of actors (Christopher Lloyd, Toni Braxton, Jamie Pressly, Chazz Palminteri), Oogielove could be a synonym for epic failure by the end of the weekend, perhaps throwing under the immortal Delgo, which managed just $273 per screen in its opening weekend. That would be a weekend total of $589,000 here, which seems wildly optimistic at this point. Could we see the first under $100 per screen wide release? I wouldn't rule it out, but perhaps around $400,000 could be in the cards, boosted by morbidly curious onlookers. In any case, this is something that's sure to live on for all the wrong reasons.
The Expendables 2 could win a third weekend by default if The Possession fails to show up, though it's a cold comfort, as that weekend total should be around $7 million, putting it on pace for about $80 million total, well below the first film's gross. It's pretty clear they're already beyond diminishing returns for adding stars, and while I'm sure Expendables 3 with Seagal and Snipes and such and such will go ahead, I think the enthusiasm bubble has burst here.
Significant returning films are in short supply this weekend, as the large slate of films earning $5 to 10 million last weekend will mostly fall below that barrier this week. The Bourne Legacy is the best of a poor lot, earning about $6 million, with ParaNorman also having a shot at that mark thanks to its family-friendly plot. Meanwhile, we're going to see the exit from relevance for such films as long running as The Dark Knight Rises and as briefly running as Premium Rush. I wish I could tell you things get better next week, but... no. It's going to be a long couple of weeks waiting for Oscar contenders and fall blockbusters to arrive.