September 1, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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>Summer always ends with a whimper.  While Memorial Day and Independence Day weekends are among the strongest of the box office year, Labor Day weekend is usually the lowest of the year in terms of movie-going.  This weekend features the opening of three more duds: a “found footage” space thriller, a shark bloodfest, and a well-reviewed but narrow drama about Nazi hunters.  None of these films have much chance of success long-term, though Apollo 18 should tie The Help for #1 this weekend.  Overall, the weekend should be up about 3% versus the same weekend last year.  

Opening at more than 2,750 theaters in North America by Weinstein, Apollo 18 should average $5,100 per theater (for $14 million for Friday-Sunday).  (All films the last two years have averaged $5,525 per theater in their opening weekend.)  Apollo 18 has not been screened for critics, usually not a good sign.  This film should be on track for around $30 million or less in North America when it leaves theaters.

At about 2,400 theaters, Shark Night 3D from Relativity should average a low $4,200 per theater (for $10 million this weekend).  No reviews yet for this movie either, which has not been made available for critics.  This horror/ thriller is probably headed for around $20 million domestically. 

Opening at 1,700 theaters from Focus (Universal) on Wednesday, The Debt should average an anemic $3,400 from Friday-Sunday (for a $6 million opening weekend).  Early reviews, however, have been quite positive at RottenTomatoes (75% positive), indicating some chance at having some legs.  The Debt is most likely on track for $25 million in North America.     

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
September 2-4                    Positive   Weekend   Total*

Apollo 18              Wein  PG13   n/a      $ 14.0    $ 30
Shark Night 3D          Rel  PG13   n/a      $ 10.0    $ 20
The Debt              Focus  R      75%      $  6.0    $ 25

Note: Although critic reviews are not related to the size of the opening weekend, they are significantly correlated with the size of the declines in the opening weeks of a movie.
* The Domestic Total is a very early ShowBuzzDaily projection of the total North American gross, based on the Weekend Forecasts.

The Help will battle Apollo 18 for the top spot this weekend — that’s about the most exciting thing to watch this sleepy Labor Day weekend.  All of the other returning films should be well below the $10 million line for the weekend. 

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic
September 2-4                   vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*

The Help            DW/Dis        – 6%      $14       $145
Rise of Planet of Apes Fox        -22%      $ 7       $175 
Colombiana            Sony        -36%      $ 6.5     $ 30
Don’t Be Afraid Dark FilmDis      -44%      $ 5       $ 25
Our Idiot Brother     Wein        -30%      $ 5       $ 25 
Spy Kids: All Time    Wein        -19%      $ 5       $ 35
The Smurfs            Sony        – 7%      $ 4.5     $140

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $69 million total, ranking 52nd of 52 weeks — yes, the bottom of the barrel generally.  Labor Day weekend has done a little better the past couple of years:  Last year and the year before this weekend’s total was $81 million.  This Friday-Sunday is looking like a marginally up weekend at $84 million, up about 3% from this weekend last year.  Last weekend (dampened by Tropical Storm Irene in the northeast) will probably have the distinction of the lowest weekend gross in 2011.     

This Weekend Last Two Years

 The American UNI R George Clooney  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $10  Actual: $13
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $44  Actual: $35
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $30
 Machete FOX R Danny Trejo Robert DeNiro 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $14  Actual: $11
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $34  Actual: $26
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $16
 Going the Distance WB R Drew Barrymore Justin Long 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $12  Actual: $7
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $24  Actual: $18
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $24
 Gamer LG R Gerard Butler  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $11  Actual: $9
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $20  Actual: $20

 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $19

 All About Steve FOX PG13 Sandra Bullock Thomas Haden Church 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $10  Actual: $11
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $31  Actual: $34
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $4
 Extract MIR R Jason Bateman Ben Affleck 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $5  Actual: $4
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $16  Actual: $11
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $0
Come back throughout the weekend to see how the movies actually perform.  Saturday morning we will have an early look at how the weekend is shaping up as a whole (based on Friday’s early numbers), on Sunday we will have initial studio estimates (based on Friday and Saturday actuals), and early next week we will have the final weekend numbers for the three-day Friday-Sunday weekend and the four-day Friday-Monday portion.

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.