New Lows Reached at September Box Office
By John Hamann
September 9, 2012
Third spot goes to the first of our new releases, The Words. Like Lawless, The Words has a strong cast that included Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde; however, the concept, about a man stealing another person’s writing, simply wasn’t enough to draw audiences to theaters. The Words earned only $5 million this weekend from a quite wide 2,801 venues, giving it a poor venue average of $1,785. The good news for distributor CBS Films is that this is a $2 million Sundance pick up, though CBS would have had to pay for the marketing. The Words will likely earn around $15 million for the upstart distributor, not enough to cover those ad costs.
So what went wrong here? The Words is a movie that makes me want to read a book, rather than go to the movies. It didn’t help that it was only 17% fresh at RottenTomatoes, with only 14 reviewers out of a possible 82 finding something to like. This was a movie that the stars of Avatar, The Hangover, and Tron 3D were never going to save. Had it been a better film, it would have had the arthouse limited release pattern, but with The Words, that strategy would have earned it less. CBS Films knew what it had here, and by opening on one of the slowest moving going weekends of the year, it had an opportunity at an upside that it wouldn’t have had any other weekend of the year. Too bad for them that the gamble didn’t play out.
Fourth spot goes to The Expendables 2, now in its fourth weekend. Lionsgate takes two of the top five spots at the box office. Unfortunately, it’s during one of the worst weekends in a decade. The Expendables 2 earned $4.8 million in weekend four. Despite only losing 74 screens, the action sequel still fell 47% compared to last weekend. It's an interesting weekend for returning films. We are coming off a long weekend, which inflates Friday-to-Sunday grosses (and can increase weekend to weekend drops), but also a weekend of extremely poor results, which should inflate percentage drops. The comparison to the first Expendables film doesn’t work as well this weekend, as the first film spent weekend four over Labor Day, where it fell only 31%, bringing its gross up to $92.2 million. The sequel hasn’t found the same success, with a gross so far of $75.4 million. One might think the $100 million budget might pull this one down into the muck, but the $100 million overseas gross (so far) will bail it out.
The Bourne Legacy takes fifth place, as the Universal Pictures attempt to continue the franchise takes in another $4 million. That's a decline of 44%, which is pretty consistent with what's happening in the rest of the top ten. Although it certainly hasn't performed up to the standards established by the first three films in the franchise, The Bourne Legace has crossed the $100 million mark, as its domestic total is now $103.4 million.
ParaNorman is sixth. The scary, animated Focus/Laika release earned $3.8 million in its fourth weekend, and dropped 42% following a $6.6 million gross over the long weekend. ParaNorman has now earned $45.1 million.