Box Office Drops Off a Cliff – Must Be Labor Day
By John Hamann
September 2, 2012
Welcome to one of the quietest weekends on the box office calendar, where success is met by opening a film above the $10 million mark instead of going for the opening weekend record, like The Dark Knight Rises did only seven weekends ago. With kids preparing for back to school and parents celebrating, studios offer little choice over the Labor Day long weekend. This weekend, on tap is The Possession, a Jewish exorcism movie, Lawless, starring soon-to-be porn actor Shia LaBeouf (at least he already has the name for it), and something called Oogiegloves, which is high-drama for three-year-olds, but horror for adults and the filmmakers, as it cost $55 million to make and market. All in all, it’s a Labor Day weekend to forget. The box office is as stale as hell, and it’s not going to get better for awhile.
Our number one movie of the weekend is The Possession, a Lionsgate horror film with a twist – it stars people who are older than 18, and has actors I actually recognize. Kyra Sedgwick and the nasty guy from Watchmen appear in The Possession, a film about a young girl who gets possessed (yes, again) after buying a box at a yard sale. Of course, the box contains a demon and insanity ensues. We’ve seen this over and over again. This is high entertainment for a Labor Day weekend, and it would appear that audiences bought into the fact that Sam Raimi produced The Possession, as they laid down $17.7 million over the three-day portion of the long weekend. Out to 2,816 venues, it had an average of $6,294. Expectations were similar to the result, so we can all go back to sleep. There’s nothing to see here. Lionsgate and its partners spent $14 million to make The Possession, and will earn a profit after a couple of weekends.
Lawless, the new western with Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy, finishes second, as it manages to get ahead of The Expendables 2. Lawless opened on Wednesday at number one, grossing only $1.1 million – nothing to be excited or upset about. Thursday was off a little from the Wednesday, but the Friday picked up somewhat, with the film earning $2.2 million. It turned that gross into a weekend take (Friday-to-Sunday) of $9.7 million, and currently has a five-day haul of $11.8 million. Probably the most interesting thing about Lawless is that it was written by Nick Cave of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a one-time punk rocker. Cave adapted the story from the novel, and John Hillcoat (The Road) directed.
For LaBeouf, Lawless is a step away from his usual poorly-made blockbuster résumé. He hasn’t been in a movie since July 2011, when Transformers 3 hit screens and opened to $162 million over its first six days. LaBeouf has indicated that he no longer wants to appear in these big blockbuster films, and wants to work on smaller projects. He is performing actual sex in Lars Von Trier’s The Nymphomaniac, so you can see where this guy is headed (out of the business). No budget data was released for Lawless, but given the cast (LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska), it couldn’t have been cheap. The Weinstein Company thought they had something here, debuting the film at Cannes, where critics weren’t as thrilled as Harvey and Bob.