Weekend Box Office (August 31 - September 3, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The summer of super heroes came to a close with a pair of new releases taking the top two spots at the North American box office over the four-day Labor Day holiday frame while comic book hits continued their global domination passing new milestones. The horror pic The Possession debuted at number one, the period crime drama Lawless bowed in second place and holdovers filled up the rest of the top ten with mostly small declines thanks to Monday being a holiday. Overall ticket sales were on par with what the industry has seen recently over this summer-ending frame.

Lionsgate enjoyed a solid opening for its supernatural thriller The Possession which spooked up $21.1M over the long Friday-to-Monday period from 2,816 locations for a sturdy $7,485 per-theater average over four days. The three-day portion was $17.7M. The PG-13 film about a demon living in a creepy box became the first fright film in five years to open at number one over Labor Day weekend. The last was 2007's Halloween remake with $26.4M over three days and $30.6M over the four-day holiday span. This is the second best opening ever for any film over this holiday after the Michael Myers redo.

As with many creepy thrillers of this type, young females drove the business. Studio research showed that 59% of the audience was female and 54% was under 25. Producer Sam Raimi's name was heavily promoted and a targeted campaign aimed at Latinos also paid dividends. Reviews were negative and audiences polled by CinemaScore gave a mediocre B grade.

Opening with modest results in second place was the crime drama Lawless with $12.9M from 2,888 locations for a mild $4,457 average across four days. $10M came from the three-day portion. The Weinstein Co. release starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Gary Oldman collected $15M since its Wednesday launch. Reviews were generally positive but overall consumer interest was never very high for the Prohibition-era tale. The CinemaScore grade was a decent B+.

After its two-week run in the top spot, the action sequel The Expendables 2 dropped to third place with $11.5M. That gave Lionsgate a cume of $68.8M in 18 days. Universal's own franchise actioner The Bourne Legacy held up better slipping to $9.3M over the long weekend upping the cume to $98.3M. It will join its three predecessors in the century club later this week.

PG-rated kidpics followed. The Focus toon ParaNorman dropped to $9M while Disney's dramedy The Odd Life of Timothy Green jumped up to $8.6M. With the extra time off, Labor Day weekend is often a popular time for parents to go to the movies with their kids before the new school year gets busy. Totals stand at $40.4M and $38.4M.

Batfans came out again for The Dark Knight Rises which in its seventh round collected $8M propelling the domestic cume to $433.3M. The four-day gross rose 11% compared to last weekend's three-day score. That was better than the 6% uptick that The Dark Knight posted over Labor Day weekend four years ago when it cracked the half-billion mark. A final North American haul of roughly $450M seems likely for Rises.

Worldwide, the Bane flick cracked the $1 billion mark thanks in part to a solid debut in China this past week. The Christopher Nolan smash collected a rough estimate of $31M there across the seven-day opening of Monday-to-Sunday finishing behind the $33.3M launch over the same period for The Amazing Spider-Man which was in 3D and released at the exact same time. For this current weekend in all 64 markets - including Italy which also launched - Rises took in an estimated $49.8M lifting the international take to $577.7M and the worldwide haul to $1.01 billion edging out the final global gross for 2008's Joker hit. IMAX screens alone have now grossed over $100M worldwide.

Another super hero flick hitting a milestone this weekend was The Avengers which crossed the $1.5 billion barrier - only the third movie in history to reach this level and the first one not from James Cameron. Disney re-released it, along with Brave, into over 1,700 theaters for an extra round of cash pushing the domestic figure to $620.3M. Most theaters split one screen programing showtimes for both films. It was a summer of super heroes as the three comic book behemoths grossed a combined $3.25 billion across the globe. To no surprise, a string of new super hero films are already scheduled on the calendar for the coming years including next summer's Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel.

After a stellar nationwide expansion last weekend, the political documentary 2016 Obama’s America fizzled out in wider play grossing $7.5M for a $4,303 average over four days. The Rocky Mountain release widened from 1,091 to 1,747 theaters but saw its three-day weekend gross drop 22% which was a larger decline than many films in the top ten which had no expansion. The bigger footprint and the buzz coming out of last week's Republican National Convention was expected to give more of a boost. Still, 2016 has grossed an impressive $20.7M to date and may be headed for the neighborhood of $30M which would be enormous for a documentary.

Will Ferrell's election comedy The Campaign followed with $7.2M for a $74.8M cume to date for Warner Bros. Rounding out the top ten with a good hold was Sony's Hope Springs with $6.1M over the long weekend and $53.5M overall.

Finding no takers this weekend was the new kidpic The Oogieloves which debuted outside the Top 20 with a pitiful $610,057 over four days. The G-rated film for pre-schoolers averaged a dismal $282 from 2,160 theaters which averaged out to about three tickets sold per showtime.

Two new films opening in limited release posted respectable numbers. The phone sex comedy For a Good Time, Call... bowed to $186,689 from 23 sites for a $8,117 average for Focus. Indomina's martial arts epic Flying Swords of Dragon Gate starring Jet Li took in $127,709 from 15 of AMC's IMAX 3D venues averaging $8,514.

With another big movie season coming to an end, the top five domestic blockbusters ended up being The Avengers ($620.3M), The Dark Knight Rises ($433.3M), The Amazing Spider-Man ($259.8M), Brave ($232.4M), and Ted ($216.1M).

The top ten films grossed $101.1M over four days which was up a scant 2% from last year when The Help was number one for a third straight frame with $19.9M; and up 8% from 2010 when The American opened on top with $16.7M.

Compared to four-day projections, The Possession and Lawless both opened above my respective forecasts of $13M and $10M while The Oogieloves came in below my $3M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Watch the trailer for Hyde Park on Hudson. Read the DVD review of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season 1, Volume 1. For film reviews visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when The Words and The Cold Night of Day both debut.

# Title Aug 31 - Sep 3 Aug 24 - 26 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Possession $ 21,078,840 2,816 1 $ 7,485 $ 21,078,840 Lionsgate
2 Lawless 12,872,548 2,888 1 4,457 15,014,995 Weinstein Co.
3 The Expendables 2 11,455,180 13,423,579 -14.7 3,334 3 3,436 68,814,085 Lionsgate
4 The Bourne Legacy 9,314,725 9,336,005 -0.2 3,131 4 2,975 98,313,165 Universal
5 ParaNorman 8,968,840 8,639,288 3.8 3,085 3 2,907 40,448,026 Focus
6 The Odd Life of Timothy Green 8,564,208 7,122,552 20.2 2,635 3 3,250 38,441,566 Disney
7 The Dark Knight Rises 7,997,311 7,222,317 10.7 2,187 7 3,657 433,311,261 Warner Bros.
8 2016 Obama’s America 7,518,204 6,509,433 15.5 1,747 8 4,303 20,685,234 Rocky Mountain
9 The Campaign 7,209,263 7,472,397 -3.5 2,941 4 2,451 74,783,927 Warner Bros.
10 Hope Springs 6,143,923 5,725,107 7.3 2,441 4 2,517 53,500,430 Sony
11 Premium Rush 5,152,473 6,030,164 -14.6 2,255 2 2,285 13,507,670 Sony
12 Hit & Run 3,261,457 4,526,222 -27.9 2,870 2 1,136 10,730,847 Open Road
13 Sparkle 3,224,876 3,983,822 -19.1 1,257 3 2,566 22,251,721 Sony
14 The Avengers 2,473,944 115,335 1,705 18 1,451 620,323,837 Disney
15 Brave 2,055,937 516,772 297.8 1,708 10 1,204 232,430,114 Disney
16 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days 2,000,900 2,245,917 -10.9 1,204 5 1,662 45,768,488 Fox
17 Ice Age: Continental Drift 1,816,841 1,751,301 3.7 1,036 8 1,754 156,149,655 Fox
18 The Amazing Spider-Man 1,211,149 491,890 146.2 501 8 2,417 259,811,206 Sony
19 Total Recall 1,087,494 1,760,436 -38.2 756 5 1,438 56,957,119 Sony
20 Ted 959,310 947,430 1.3 561 10 1,710 216,124,215 Universal
Top 5 $ 63,690,133 $ 46,093,586 38.2
Top 10 101,123,042 76,007,064 33.0
Top 20 124,367,423 91,645,829 35.7
Top 20 vs. Labor Day 2011 124,367,423 123,375,967 0.8

Last Updated: September 4, 2012 at 6:00PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.