Weekend Box Office (September 7 - 9, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Tumbleweeds blew through North American multiplexes as the marketplace collapsed to its worst level in at least four years thanks to the end of the summer movie season and no new compelling films opening. Last week's top three films - The Possession, Lawless and The Expendables 2 - held onto their positions, the new Bradley Cooper film The Words debuted poorly in fourth, and most holdovers enjoyed relatively low declines. Still, the top ten failed to break $50M and the Top 20 barely inched over the $60M mark making for an ocean of empty seats.

The Possession became the first horror movie in three years to top the box office over back-to-back weekends as the Lionsgate hit scared up $9.3M, according to final studio figures, in its sophomore session slipping 48%. That was a hold that any fright film would kill for and the fact that it was coming off of a holiday frame made it even more impressive. With no real competition from new releases and a months-long drought of scary movies, the supernatural thriller upped its ten-day total to a terrific $33.2M on its way to possibly $50M+. 2009's The Final Destination was the last horror movie to rank number one over two straight weekends.

Distributor Lionsgate is on a hot streak and has owned the number one spot for four consecutive weekends now with two frames a piece for Possession and The Expendables 2. Add in the four-week reign that The Hunger Games had back in the spring and the company has held the top spot for eight total frames in 2012 - the most of any studio. It's also as many as Warner Bros., Fox, and Paramount combined.

The weekend after Labor Day is always one of the slowest frames of the entire year at the North American box office. Kids are back to school, the NFL football season starts, and studios usually avoid opening anything big. But this year was exceptionally poor. It was the first weekend in four years where no film managed to break the $10M mark. The last time was this very session in 2008 when Nicolas Cage's Bangkok Dangerous opened at number one with a puny $7.8M. The Top 20 sank to only $60.2M that year with this weekend seeing a similar funk at a dreadful $60.4M. Some studio muscle will try to revive the box office next weekend with the openings of Sony's Resident Evil: Retribution and Disney's 3D release of Finding Nemo. Both open Friday in roughly 2,900 theaters.

The moonshine flick Lawless enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend slipping 40% to $6M as it retained second place. Released by The Weinstein Co., the Shia LaBeouf pic has grossed a modest $23.5M from a very wide release in 3,138 theaters averaging only $1,914 per location this weekend.

Audiences showed little interest in the new Bradley Cooper drama The Words which opened in fourth place with $4.8M from 2,801 locations for a poor $1,696 average. The PG-13 film co-starring Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, and Jeremy Irons failed to generate any excitement with moviegoers and bad reviews didn't help. Older women made up the core audience for the CBS Films release with research showing that 58% of the crowd was female and 78% was 25 and older. A CinemaScore grade of B indicates that the road ahead will not be easy for Words which was acquired at Sundance this year for $2M.

August action sequels sandwiched the freshman. The Expendables 2 fell 45% to $5M giving Lionsgate $75.6M to date. Universal's spy thriller The Bourne Legacy cracked the $100M mark over the weekend with $4M in its fifth round. The Jeremy Renner pic declined by 45% and raised its domestic total to $103.6M. The actor has now been in three different franchise films over the past nine months that reached nine-digit territory with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Avengers being the others.

A pair of PG-rated kidpics were also in the mix. The animated ParaNorman slipped 36% to $4.2M while Disney's The Odd Life of Timothy Green dropped by 42% to $3.7M. Totals are $45.5M for the Focus toon and $43M for the Jennifer Garner starrer.

Will Ferrell's political comedy The Campaign held up well dipping 41% to $3.4M pushing the sum to $79.3M for Warner Bros. Despite virtually no new competition, The Dark Knight Rises suffered one of the largest drops in the top ten falling 47% to $3.2M for a domestic cume of $437.8M thus far. Overseas saw another $13M boosting the international total to $603.4M and the global gross to a stunning $1.04 billion. China stands at $42M after only two weeks and will soon become the film's second biggest offshore market after the U.K. Grossing $3.3M domestically was the hit documentary 2016 Obama’s America which dropped 35% giving the Rocky Mountain release $26.1M so far.

A pair of notable films opened outside of the top ten to varying degrees of success. With zero degrees, Lionsgate's kidnapping thriller The Cold Light of Day with Henry Cavill and Bruce Willis bowed to dismal results with $1.8M from 1,511 locations for a wimpy $1,212 average. The leftover title from the company's acquisition of Summit did not get a big promo push and was quietly slotted into what is always one of the slowest frames of the entire year.

With a new and annoyingly long title, Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark: The IMAX Experience saw a solid bow with $1.7M from 267 higher-priced IMAX locations for a $6,269 average. Paramount scheduled an exclusive one-week-only run to give fans the big-screen experience and help hype the Blu-ray release of all four Indiana Jones films which hit stores later this month.

The top ten films grossed $46.7M which was down a sizable 23% from last year when Contagion debuted at number with $22.4M; and down 24% from 2010 when Resident Evil: Afterlife opened on top with $26.7M.

Compared to projections, The Words and The Cold Light of Day both came in below my respective forecasts of $8M and $3M.

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Watch the NEW trailer for Monsters Inc. 3D. 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 Resident Evil: Retribution and Finding Nemo both open.

# Title Sep 7 - 9 Aug 31 - Sep 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Possession $ 9,317,472 $ 17,732,480 -47.5 2,834 2 $ 3,288 $ 33,166,582 Lionsgate
2 Lawless 6,007,036 10,001,566 -39.9 3,138 2 1,914 23,525,455 Weinstein Co.
3 The Expendables 2 4,951,899 9,030,381 -45.2 3,260 4 1,519 75,619,038 Lionsgate
4 The Words 4,750,894 2,801 1 1,696 4,750,894 CBS
5 ParaNorman 4,195,415 6,572,820 -36.2 2,856 4 1,469 45,452,876 Focus
6 The Bourne Legacy 3,969,330 7,232,610 -45.1 2,766 5 1,435 103,628,825 Universal
7 The Odd Life of Timothy Green 3,650,158 6,276,654 -41.8 2,717 4 1,343 43,007,208 Disney
8 The Campaign 3,377,189 5,710,234 -40.9 2,542 5 1,329 79,320,621 Warner Bros.
9 2016 Obama’s America 3,309,422 5,103,382 -35.2 2,017 9 1,641 26,115,717 Rocky Mountain
10 The Dark Knight Rises 3,218,189 6,116,335 -47.4 1,987 8 1,620 437,782,482 Warner Bros.
11 Hope Springs 2,800,217 4,697,097 -40.4 2,437 5 1,149 57,519,656 Sony
12 Premium Rush 2,311,414 3,971,312 -41.8 2,182 3 1,059 16,743,104 Sony
13 The Cold Light of Day 1,831,588 1,511 1 1,212 1,831,588 Lionsgate
14 Raiders of the Lost Ark IMAX 1,673,731 267 1 6,269 1,673,731 Paramount
15 Hit & Run 1,077,146 2,586,416 -58.4 1,810 3 595 12,503,750 Open Road
16 Ice Age: Continental Drift 834,216 1,299,628 -35.8 763 9 1,093 157,170,660 Fox
17 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days 817,491 1,418,738 -42.4 931 6 878 46,742,100 Fox
18 The Avengers 786,181 1,910,701 -58.9 1,209 19 650 621,414,627 Disney
19 Sparkle 780,085 1,779,776 -56.2 873 4 894 23,374,162 Sony
20 Brave 720,572 1,427,002 -49.5 959 11 751 233,397,964 Disney
Top 5 $ 29,222,716 $ 50,569,857 -42.2
Top 10 46,747,004 78,473,559 -40.4
Top 20 60,379,645 95,471,079 -36.8
Top 20 vs. 2011 60,379,645 73,958,144 -18.4

Last Updated: September 10, 2012 at 6:15PM ET

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