Weekend Forecast for September 7-9, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
September 7, 2012

It's so *hard* being a beautiful, famous Hollywood actor.

While Labor Day weekend ended up better than expected in the box office column thanks to a surprise horror hit, there's no cavalry coming this weekend. Major distributors stayed away from this weekend and it's two smaller studios claiming it with some of the worst reviews of the year.

Superficially, The Words has a lot of the hallmarks of an Oscar contender - “important” subject matter, respected actors and a complicated plot line. What it's really missing is that “be a good movie” part. Bradley Cooper stars as a struggling writer who decides to steal from the life story of another writer, passing it off as his own work, and vaulting himself into fame. Of course, that kind of theft usually finds its way back to the original writer, who is naturally kind of pissed about it. And thus, we see the terrible, terrible costs of plagiarism or some such and... wait, where are you going with that ticket to The Expendables 2?

Also starring Jeremy Irons, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde and Dennis Quaid (who in a bizarre and pointless framing device, is writing the main plot of the film as a novel) and written and directed by the guys that came up with the story for Tron: Legacy (I don't know why they're not pushing that connection harder!), this is a generically titled drama about a subject most people don't care about and with actors who've never proven to be big draws without a ton of help. CBS Films is getting better at not having its movies look like overgrown TV productions, but they're still working on the whole “interesting” bit. Although it's opening in 2,800 venues, I see this one as a completely forgettable footnote to the careers of just about everyone in it. I think $6 million is probably kind of optimistic here for a weekend take.

Looking for all the world like a straight-to-DVD feature rescued at the last minute, The Cold Light of Day is Summit's latest attempt to prove their relevance beyond the Twilight series. Well, good luck with that. Henry Cavill stars as a man whose family is kidnapped while on vacation in Spain, forcing him to go on the hunt. This reveals some dark family secrets through his ex-CIA agent father, Bruce Willis (was he... adopted?) and some missing secret files. The ads for this are really trying to push a Bourne film similarity with lots of close-in action and shots of people jumping off European buildings, but there's just no heat to them, and this feels more like a copy of a copy of a... made on the cheap.

Willis and co-star Sigourney Weaver add a bit of juice to the billing, but audiences are getting pretty savvy at recognizing when someone's making essentially a glorified cameo like these two appear to be. Cavill might become a big name after next summer but for now this graduate of the Paul Walker School of Acting (key classes including: Saying The Words In The Right Order, Not Mouthing Other Actors' Lines and Staring Intently Into Middle Distance) is still fairly anonymous. The Immortals did okay and all, but I don't think anyone remembers it for him, or even him in it. Being more or less dumped into 1,500 venues, The Cold Light of Day (really a terrible, non-descriptive title there – it's the week for them) has the feel of an epic bomb, with maybe a $3 million opening.

That more than likely gives The Possession a second weekend at the top of the charts, even with the expected horror film and terrible film drops built in. Such is the benefit you get when you outpace the field by a large margin and then have no worthy films open up the next weekend. Almost no horror films do better than a 55% drop in weekend two (Insidious being a recent exception) but with the poor word-of-mouth this is receiving, it could even be worse. That's still probably good enough for first place with $6.5 million or so.

Lawless, despite its well-populated cast of recognizable actors, could only manage about $10 million last weekend. That's not too too terrible, all things considered, and falls within the appropriate range for this kind of film in this season, but it can't be what was initially hoped for with this group of actors and this premise. I suppose grungy depression-era crime films don't sell like they used to. This will drop to around $5 million this weekend.

The last of summer's films start to drop out of significance this weekend. The Expendables 2 drops to about $5 million this weekend, with around $85 million as its stopping point. The Bourne Legacy jumps over the $100 million hurdle this weekend, though after dropping to about $4 million, as will a couple of kid-centered films, The Odd Life of Timothy Green and ParaNorman. The Dark Knight Rises will pass E.T. this weekend on the all-time charts and should still pass Shrek 2 for seventh all time, but that's likely its stopping point, as Star Wars is just a little too far ahead. There's a few more films that are limping home out of summer like The Campaign and Hope Springs, but there's not much to replace them just yet.