Labor Day Weekend has long been considered one of the deadest weekends on the box office schedule, between end of summer doldrums and back to school distractions. However, nothing changes minds like success, and this year's bridge between the summer and fall seasons sees four wide releases.
Weekend Forecast for September 1-4, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
September 1, 2006
The highest profile of these is Crank, starring Jason Statham, who is becoming the King of these late season high-concept action films. He leads the film as a hitman injected with a poison that will kill him if his heart rate drops too low (somewhere, Graham Yost is planning a lawsuit). To stave off his death, he has to engage in riskier and riskier activities to keep his adrenaline pumping, giving him the time to enact his revenge. Mostly this involves beating up thugs, but it appears to get somewhat inventive along the way.
Statham had a surprise hit on this weekend last year, opening The Transporter II to over $20 million, more than doubling the first Transporter's box office. It's this, plus his appearance in the thematically similar Cellular, that has hopes somewhat high for this film. By definition non-stop action, this is just the kind of film that has had a lot of success in this slot recently. It doesn't have quite the backing or built in audience of The Transporter, but its high-concept nature and blend of comedy and action should bring enough for Crank to win the weekend with about $16 million over four days.
Next up is The Wicker Man, a remake of a 1973 horror film. Nicolas Cage stars as a sheriff of a rural community that stumbles onto a mystery involving a missing girl and a secret neo-pagan society on an island in Maine. As he is drawn into the society, more mysteries emerge and it becomes a battle for his very soul.
The original film is a classic among horror aficionados, with an iconic performance from Christopher Lee and featuring copious nudity. No such luck this time, but it is directed by Neil LaBute, who burst onto the scene with the controversial In the Company of Men and has stayed relevant and daring since then. This seems to be the biggest reason that this film is interesting at all, as otherwise it looks like a bit of a mess, with ads not really very clear about what it's about. The film has been withheld from critics (as was Crank, though that one's review proof), though a blitz of advertising has kept it in the public eye. Cage has been extremely hit and miss of late as a lead, ranging from the huge success of National Treasure to the utter flop of The Weather Man, but I suspect this one will land somewhere in the middle, with about $11 million over four days.
The Illusionist expands into just shy of 1,000 screens after a successful two week run in limited release. One of a couple of magic-themed films this fall, The Illusionist stars Ed Norton as a magician in early 20th century Vienna who uses his powers to secure the love of a noble woman above his stature and unsettle the royal house of Vienna. Also starring Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell, it's been getting a strong critical reception complete with Oscar buzz for Norton. It came in with an impressive $12,000 plus per screen average on 144 screens last weekend, finishing in 14th spot on the weekend.
The love story/mystery looks ready to build on a positive couple of weekends, with word-of-mouth doing most of the heavy lifting for the film. Its third weekend should be worth about $4 million for it, bringing it to a total of around $9 million.
Crossover seems like a movie that it's hard to believe anyone actually took seriously. Set in the world of street basketball, this posits a world in which a talented high school kid finds himself torn between a UCLA scholarship an a skeezy agent (played by, and I'm not kidding here, Wayne Brady) who is urging him towards the NBA. Meanwhile his best buddy has dual aims of getting his GED and beating a rival in an underground tournament. I wish I were making this up.
Brady is arguably the biggest name in the film, which tells you a lot about it. If you're an And 1 video devotee, there's probably a few more names to be aware of, but that's a tough thing to build a feature film around. It's got a bit of similarity to another "I can't believe they made that" film, You Got Served, but that at least had a band tie-in. Hardcore street basketball fans might turn out for this one, but that's about it. Opening on just over 1,000 screens, look for this one to die with around $3 million on the weekend.
Invincible won the box office last weekend, opening to $17 million, more than double second place. The Mark Wahlberg sports drama was perfectly timed to coincide with the start of the NFL season, and presented a straight forward "root for the underdog" story that was easy for audiences to relate to. Word-of-mouth was deferential but not outstanding, and it should come in with about $12 million over the Labor Day Weekend.
Little Miss Sunshine has another small expansion this weekend after breaking into the top three last weekend. The indie sensation of the summer is peaking at the right time, with little in its way. In its second weekend of wide release, it should see its weekend figure stay at around $7 million for the second straight week, with it crossing the $30 million total mark.