September 8, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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>Now we slog through September.  The top 12 films usually gross $73 million the weekend after Labor Day, and the September weekends afterward average around $85 million.  By October, however, the typical weekend perks up to over $100 million.  Contagion should takeover the #1 spot this weekend, with Warrior fighting The Help for #2 and Bucky Larson dead on arrival.  Overall, the weekend should be up about 11% versus the same weekend last year, which featured only one opener (Resident Evil: Afterlife) and many weak holdovers.  

Opening at more than 3,100 theaters in North America by Warner Brothers, Contagion should average $6,600 per theater (for $20.5 million for Friday-Sunday).  (All films the last two years have averaged $5,525 per theater in their opening weekend.)  Contagion has received broadly positive reviews, with 78% positive at RottenTomatoes.  This film should be on track for around $65 million in North America when it leaves theaters.

At about 1,700 theaters, Warrior from Lionsgate should average an okay $5,700 per theater (for $10 million this weekend).  The film has been very well received by critics nationwide, with 88% positive at RottenTomatoes.  This film is probably headed for around $35 million domestically or more. 

Opening at 1,400 theaters from Sony, Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star should average a pitiful $2,100 from Friday-Sunday (for a $3 million opening weekend).  There are no early reviews yet for Bucky — it is not unusual for a studio to shield Adam Sandler movies (he produced it) from the wrath of critics.  Bucky Larson is most likely on track for only $5 million in North America.     

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
September 9-11                   Positive   Weekend   Total*

Contagion                WB  PG13   78%      $ 20.5    $ 65
Warrior                  LG  PG13   88%      $ 10.0    $ 35
Bucky Larson:Born Star Sony  R      n/a      $  3.0    $  5

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 Warrior for the second spot this weekend.  Most of the other returning films should be well below the $5 million line for the weekend.  As usual, the box office should remain fairly sleepy through most of September and early October, before finally perking up in mid-October.

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic
September 9-11                  vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*

The Help            DW/Dis        -28%      $10.5     $155
The Debt             Focus        -41%      $ 6       $ 40
Rise of Planet of Apes Fox        -44%      $ 4.5     $180 
Colombiana            Sony        -45%      $ 4       $ 40
Apollo 18             Wein        -59%      $ 3.5     $ 15
Shark Night 3D         Rel        -64%      $ 3       $ 14
Our Idiot Brother     Wein        -41%      $ 3       $ 31 

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $73 million total, ranking 51st of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $66 million, and the year before the comparable weekend was $76 million.  This Friday-Sunday is looking like a fairly typical weekend after Labor Day at $73 million, up about 11% from this weekend last year (which was depressed by having only one opener).       

This Weekend Last Two Years


 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
 Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself LG PG13 Tyler Perry Taraji P Henson 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $24  Actual: $23
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $59  Actual: $52
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $0
 Sorority Row SUMMIT R   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $11  Actual: $5
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $12  Actual: $12
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $15
 9 UNI PG13   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $10  Actual: $11
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $36  Actual: $32
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $16
 Whiteout WB R Kate Beckinsale Gabriel Macht 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $10  Actual: $5
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $8  Actual: $10
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $8

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 Monday we will have the final weekend numbers.

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.