Weekend Box Office (September 3 - 6, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND The summer movie season closed quietly as the top ten slumped to its worst performance of 2010 with audiences finding other ways to spend their Labor Day holiday weekend. Two of the three new releases - George Clooney's assassin pic The American and Robert Rodriguez's violent revenge actioner Machete - met with moderate bows while Drew Barrymore's romantic comedy Going the Distance failed to attract business. The top ten films tumbled to less than $75M (over the Friday-to-Sunday period) making for the lowest performance in nearly one year giving the marketplace very little momentum going into the fall season.

For the first time in his career, George Clooney anchored a number one hit movie all by himself as the Focus release The American shot to the top with $16.7M in ticket sales over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday frame, according to final studio figures. The R-rated drama averaged a decent $5,902 from 2,823 theaters over four days and has grossed $19.8M in the six days since its Wednesday launch. The Oscar-winning actor has reached the top spot numerous times but always when surrounded by other major stars like with the Ocean's series or The Perfect Storm. The Friday-to-Sunday gross for the modest $20M production was $13.2M for a $4,668 average.

With the box office filled with films catering to teens and young adults, The American scored by playing to a more mature crowd. Autumn releases typically skew older so the Italy-set film was the appropriate choice to end off summer and welcome in the fall. The last time the chart was topped by such a low gross was Labor Day 2009 and the last film to open at number one with a smaller gross was Bangkok Dangerous with $7.8M two years ago over the September 5-7 session.

After winning the box office race on Friday, Fox's Mexploitation actioner Machete finished in second place over the long four-day weekend with $14.1M. Robert Rodriguez's Danny Trejo-led action-comedy played in 2,670 sites and averaged a mediocre $5,282 per location over the long weekend. Over three days, the gross was $11.4M while the average was $4,276. The performance was almost identical to the $11.6M opening and $4,419 average of 2007's Grindhouse which featured a fake trailer for Machete which became the inspiration for the campy feature film.

It was the only movie this weekend to see sales drop from Friday to Saturday with its 2% dip. Sunday estimates showed the pic in third place for the weekend, but revised data released on Monday indicated slightly better-than-expected numbers putting it in second for both the three-day and four-day weekend periods. Studio research showed that 55% of the audience was over 25, 55% was male, and 60% was Latino. Reviews were generally good for the R-rated bloodfest which also featured Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, and Lindsay Lohan. With a cult audience coming out upfront, long-term prospects seem dull.

Holding up relatively well in its second weekend, the crime thriller Takers dropped to third with $13.5M falling 47% from its top spot debut when comparing the three-day periods. Sony's PG-13 offering has taken in a better-than-expected $40M in its first 11 days of release and could be looking at a final take of around $60M.

Tumbling 64% from its impressive debut last weekend, the fright flick The Last Exorcism took fourth place with $8.8M in ticket sales. Lionsgate has scared up a solid $33.5M in 11 days and looks headed for a $42-45M finish.

Audiences showed no interest in Drew Barrymore's latest romantic comedy Going the Distance which opened poorly in fifth place with $8.5M over four days. The R-rated pic about a couple trying to make a long distance relationship work averaged a weak $2,808 from 3,030 theaters. Co-starring Justin Long, the Warner Bros. release enjoyed the most theaters of any new release over the past two weeks, but also suffered the worst debut. Reviews were generally negative and the strict rating kept out younger teens. The Friday-to-Sunday take was only $6.9M.

The rest of the top ten was filled with holdovers that moviegoers were busy catching up on after a long hot summer. All dropped by 30% or less when comparing Friday-to-Sunday sessions. Lionsgate's The Expendables grossed $8.3M, off 30%, raising the cume to $93.9M. Sony followed with its pair of late summer star-driven hits The Other Guys and Eat Pray Love which took in $6.7M and $6.2M, respectively. The Will Ferrell action-comedy dipped only 16% lifting the total to $108.1M while the Julia Roberts travel journal fell 30% and has banked $70.3M to date.

Summer's biggest non-sequel Inception eased by a scant 7% to $5.9M and has collected $278.5M thus far for Warner Bros. Rounding out the top ten was Universal's family comedy Nanny McPhee Returns with $4.8M, down 26%, and a disappointing $23.7M overall.

With the season coming to an end, the following are the top ten blockbusters of Summer 2010: Toy Story 3 ($408.9M), Iron Man 2 ($312.1M), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($298.8M), Inception ($278.5M), Despicable Me ($241.5M), Shrek Forever After ($238.4M), The Karate Kid ($176.3M), Grown Ups ($160.2M), The Last Airbender ($131.2M), and Salt ($115.6M).

The top ten films grossed $93.4M over four days which was off 3% from the long Labor Day weekend last year when The Final Destination remained in the top spot with $15.3M; but up 9% from 2008's holiday which fell a week earlier when Tropic Thunder stayed at number one for the third week in a row with $14.6M.

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

Check the box office chart for the Top September Openings. For a review of Step Up 3D visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Resident Evil: Afterlife opens.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Sep 3 - 6 Aug 27 - 29 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The American $ 16,662,333 2,823 1 $ 5,902 $ 19,806,118 Focus
2 Machete 14,102,888 2,670 1 5,282 14,102,888 Fox
3 Takers 13,535,992 20,512,304 -34.0 2,206 2 6,136 39,986,817 Sony
4 The Last Exorcism 8,750,191 20,366,613 -57.0 2,874 2 3,045 33,522,575 Lionsgate
5 Going the Distance 8,508,290 3,030 1 2,808 8,508,290 Warner Bros.
6 The Expendables 8,317,824 9,527,937 -12.7 3,398 4 2,448 93,885,594 Lionsgate
7 The Other Guys 6,664,628 6,285,712 6.0 2,607 5 2,556 108,130,839 Sony
8 Eat Pray Love 6,175,610 6,815,555 -9.4 2,663 4 2,319 70,279,644 Sony
9 Inception 5,884,355 4,876,356 20.7 1,704 8 3,453 278,457,609 Warner Bros.
10 Nanny McPhee Returns 4,806,685 4,714,215 2.0 2,708 3 1,775 23,672,660 Universal
11 Despicable Me 4,047,680 2,859,680 41.5 1,600 9 2,530 241,498,630 Universal
12 Vampires Suck 3,941,945 5,221,780 -24.5 2,434 3 1,620 33,240,602 Fox
13 The Switch 3,917,061 4,583,481 -14.5 1,885 3 2,078 22,292,201 Buena Vista/Maple
14 Piranha 3D 3,010,152 4,302,878 -30.0 1,789 3 1,683 23,105,959 Weinstein Co.
15 Avatar: Special Edition 2,961,801 4,007,750 -26.1 812 2 3,648 758,247,840 Fox
16 Toy Story 3 2,735,035 1,010,710 170.6 1,520 12 1,799 408,890,408 Buena Vista
17 Lottery Ticket 2,717,275 3,854,303 -29.5 1,310 3 2,074 21,074,972 Warner Bros.
18 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World 1,985,220 2,505,555 -20.8 807 4 2,460 29,267,130 Universal
19 Salt 1,600,665 1,883,890 -15.0 705 7 2,270 115,561,662 Sony
20 Get Low 1,204,465 1,640,176 -26.6 560 6 2,151 5,403,397 Sony Classics
Top 5 $ 61,559,694 $ 63,508,121 -3.1
Top 10 93,408,796 87,206,831 7.1
Top 20 121,530,095 108,651,482 11.9
Top 20 vs. Labor Day 2009 121,530,095 116,210,584 4.6

Last Updated: September 8, 2010 at 8:00AM ET

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