September 5, 2012

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS September 7-9: Plenty of Empty Seats at Movie Theaters

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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The weekend after Labor Day normally has the lowest box office volume of any weekend on the calendar.  Weekend #36 of 2012 will follow this pattern, and it could be the softest weekend since 2008: only about $51 million for the top 12 films this weekend.  No film will have a weekend over $10 million, and only three movies should be over $5 million.  Two weak films will open to the sound of crickets, and everyone will want to simply forget this weekend ever happened.  

Opening at about 2,700 2,801 theaters Friday, The Words from CBS Films should average $2,600 per theater (for a $7.0 million opening weekend).  [The average wide-release film the past two years has had an opening three-day weekend of $5,300 per theater.]  The Words should end its domestic run with about $18 million.  The is very little heat or buzz around this Bradley Cooper drama about a successful writer facing the prospect of being exposed as a plagiarist, and CBS Films should suffer yet another disappointment.  Currently, critics are 30% 18% positive at RottenTomatoes — not very encouraging for any surprise word of mouth.

Opening at 1,500 1,511 theaters Friday, The Cold Light of Day from Summit should average an awful $1,400 per theater (for a $2.2 million opening weekend).  The film might get to $3 million domestic if it lasts a second week.  Early reviews are brutal for the action film starring Henry Cavill and Bruce Willis (currently 8% ositive at RottenTomatoes).

September 7-9, 2012 Critics Positive Opening Weekend Forecast Domestic Total Projection
The Words CBS PG13 18% 7.0 18
Cold Light of Day Summit PG13 8% 2.2 3

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 Possession should hold on to the #1 spot with a pathetic $8 million second weekend.  Most films will decline 45-55% from last weekend except for 2016 Obama’s America, which is getting a second wave of activity in its marketing plan and should have a modest decline.  

RETURNING FILMS ($ millions)
September 7-9, 2012 Change vs Last Weekend Weekend Forecast Showbuzz Domestic Final Proj.
The Possession LG -55% 8.0 45
Lawless Weins -48% 5.2 34
2016 Obama’s America Rocky Mtn -15% 4.8 35
Expendables 2 LG -49% 4.6 88
Bourne Legacy Uni -45% 4.0 112
ParaNorman Foc/Uni -50% 3.3 55
Dark Knight Rises WB -48% 3.2 443
Odd Life of Timothy Green Dis -52% 3.0 49
The Campaign WB -49% 2.9 87
Hope Springs Sony -43% 2.7 64


Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in this comparable weekend have averaged a sad $73 million total, ranking dead last — 52nd of 52 weeks.  Last year, this weekend’s total was $65 million (while 2010’s comparable weekend was $66 million).  This Friday-Sunday is looking like a horrifying $51 million, down 31% from the average comparable weekend over the past four years and down 22% from last year.  We have to go back to the same weekend in 2008 (September 5-7) to find a similarly feeble weekend: $50.3 million for the top 12 films, with no film over $10 million for the weekend and only four movies above $5 million (Bangkok Dangerous first weekend $7.8 million, Tropic Thunder fourth weekend $7.2 million, Dark Knight eighth weekend $5.5 million, House Bunny third weekend $5.5 million).


This Weekend Last Two Years


Contagion WB PG13 Matt Damon Marion Cotillard
Opening Weekend — Forecast: $21 Actual: $22
Domestic Gross — Estimate: $85 Actual: $76
International — Estimate: n/a Actual: $60

Warrior LG PG13 Joel Edgerton Tom Hardy
Opening Weekend — Forecast: $10 Actual: $5
Domestic Gross — Estimate: $21 Actual: $14
International — Estimate: n/a Actual: $9

Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star SONY R Nick Swardson Stephen Dorff
Opening Weekend — Forecast: $3 Actual: $1
Domestic Gross — Estimate: $2 Actual: $2
International — Estimate: n/a Actual: $0


Resident Evil: Afterlife (in 3D) SONY R Milla Jovovich Ali Larter
Opening Weekend — Forecast: $26 Actual: $27
Domestic Gross — Estimate: $61 Actual: $60
International — Estimate: n/a Actual: $236


Check back throughout the weekend for box office updates as the actual numbers come in.


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.