Weekend Wrap-Up for September 4-6, 2015
War Room, Compton Battle Continues over Labor Day Frame
By John Hamann
September 6, 2015
It’s Labor Day, so you are likely not reading a column about box office, as no one went to the movies this weekend. Really, there is nothing to see here, so go back to your knitting.
It is ugly out there this weekend, as the average gross in the top 12 is less than $5 million, and the number one film and the number 12 film are separated by a little more than $6 million. It’s no secret that the Labor Day frame is the armpit of the moviegoing calendar. We only have to look to last year when Guardians of the Galaxy led the box office in its fourth frame with $10.4 million, and the top 12 earned only $51.5 million.
Studios gave up on this weekend a long time ago, and now use it to launch small product that doesn’t need that much of a push stateside to find success. This weekend’s new releases include Transporter Refueled, a film that will earn more in Europe than it will in America; A Walk In The Woods, a failed Oscar contender that gets shuffled out before the Oscar madness starts in a few weekends with Black Mass, Sicario, Pawn Sacrifice and Everest all launching on September 18th; and Un Gallo Con Muchos Huevos, a Mexican release from Pantelion. These films do not rely on U.S. audiences for success, so they are excellent filler over the slowest movie going weekend of the year.
Grosses are so low that there should not be a perceived number one film. They all do so poorly, there are no winners. War Room and Straight Outta Compton are duking it out again, much like last weekend when Compton won the race with $13.1 million, narrowly beating War Room’s $11.4 million. This weekend, three-day estimates have War Room on top with $9.4 million and Straight Outta Compton in second with $8.9 million. It’s important to note that this could all change tomorrow, as that estimate may change given War Room’s propensity for bigger Sunday screenings. Last weekend, War Room was under-estimated ($11 million estimate/$11.4 million actual) and Compton was over-estimated ($13.24 million estimate/$13.1 million actual). Those amounts may seem small, but a $400,000 difference could be the difference between first and third.
TriStar's War Room is already profitable against its $3 million budget. It held magnificently in its second frame, bringing its domestic total up to $24.7 million. This has to be considered a large success for TriStar and Affirm Films (Courageous, Fire Proof), a company that has apparently found the right formula for attracting audiences to these faith-based films. They chose a smart weekend to release their film, as they knew even an opening around $10 million would get it into the news cycle (due to low overall grosses), and then would have a decent weekend in its second frame due to the Labor Day holiday. Faith-based releases don’t shy away from the usual Hollywood rules around scheduling, as audiences will come out regardless of the release date. This one will likely make $30 million plus, providing a tidy profit for the filmmakers, because even marketing costs are less due to the Sunday sermon marketing strategy.