Box Office Preview: A Lawless Labor Day Possessed by Oogieloves


It’s Labor Day weekend, the last weekend of the summer and as is often the case with the extended four-day weekend that often divides summer vacations from the school year, we have a mixed bag of genre movies, two of them trying to make a mark against two-time champ The Expendables 2. Since we expect that to make roughly $9 million or a little less over the holiday weekend, there’s a good chance that one or both of the new movies will take over the top spot even as stronger returning movies bring in business from those who may have missed them.

The movie with the best chance at scoring a #1 over the holiday weekend where horror and genre movies have always done well is the horror movie The Possession (Lionsgate) from Danish director Ole Bornthal ( Not Another Love Story) and producer Sam Raimi who wisely changed the title from the original “Dibbuk Box” to something easier to palate while keeping all of the Jewish mysticism intact. Even though horror movies rarely rely on starpower to market, this one has a couple of recognizable faces like Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen) and Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”).

Movies about demons and possession have always done well at the box office for some reason, going back to the original The Exorcist, although in recent years, they’ve tended to open big and then quickly tail off. One fine example is The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which opened with $30 million and made $75 million total, although that opened the weekend after Labor Day as well. The last couple of years, movies about demonic possession have been good January openers with The Unborn debuting with $19.8 opening in 2009, but then only grossing $42.6 million, and this past January, The Devil Inside opened with $33.7 million but only did $53.2 million total. Lionsgate has generally done well marketing horror over the past few years and this is no exception with the “fingers in the mouth” being a particularly disturbing image. Furthermore, the horror genre has been one of the stronger mainstays over Labor Day weekend, though normally frontloaded to Friday and we expect The Possession to follow suit with $4 to 6 million on Friday, but then dropping below $15 million for the four-day weekend. It probably will end up in the $35 million range by the time it leaves theaters.

Hoping to grab some of the older guys (and maybe some ladies) away from The Possession with its cast of rising stars, the period crime-drama Lawless (The Weinstein Co.) from director John Hillcoat (The Road) stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman and Mia Wasikowska. While the advertising makes the movie look like an action film full of gangster shoot-em-ups, it’s really more of a dramatic film that would normally open in limited release or platform rather than going for a wide opening. Focus Features have had good luck with just such films over the last couple of years with George Clooney’s The American and then last year with The Debt (co-starring Chastain) so they’re hoping there’s enough older males looking for strong cinema over the holiday weekend to make a wide release worthwhile. We think that the advertising has been strong enough to generate interest and reviews and word-of-mouth from opening on Wednesday should generally back it up as a possible first choice for the weekend (whereas The Possession won’t be screening until Wednesday night). There should be some demand since the marketing has been strong but the Wednesday opening could take some business away from the weekend. We think it should do roughly $3 to 4 million in its first two days then between $11 and 12 million over the four-day weekend on its way to about $35 million total thanks to there not being much comparable on the back-end.

7.5/10 Review

We’re not quite sure if we should even write about The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure (Freestyle Releasing) from the marketing brains behind the Teletubbies, because the advertising says that it comes out on “Oogust 29.” Since that is a fictional month that doesn’t actually exist, we’re not quite sure if we should believe that it will be found in movie theaters in our own reality this coming Wednesday even though it’s been said that it’s getting a wide release. With commercials running non-stop during time slots where parents and kids are present, this will mostly be a movie for parents with very small children only, maybe focused in rural and suburban areas rather than in more cultured larger cities. Its moderately wide release of 2,000 theaters should help it amass $4 to 5 million by Monday thanks to the early day off from school that will give Sunday less of a drop than normal. And just think, in thirty years or so, that younger generation who sees The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure during their formative years will look back at it as if it was The Godfather. Hopefully I’ll be dead by then.

The breakout conservative doc 2016 Obama’s America will be expanding into 1,800 theaters this weekend which should help keep it in the Top 10.

Last Labor Day saw the release of three new movies each vying to take down DreamWorks’ breakout hit The Help and all failing, as it remained at #1 with nearly $20 million over the four-day weekend. Coming closest was the long-delayed period thriller The Debt (Focus Features), starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain and Ciaran Hinds, which surprised many by bringing in a relatively impressive $12.8 million in just 1,826 theaters over the four days. Third place went to the found footage sci-fi thriller Apollo 18 (Dimension Films) with $10.7 million in 3,328 theaters, quite a contrast to The Debt which did better in roughly half the number of sites. At least it did better than the surprisingly PG-13 Shark Night 3D (Relativity Media), which took in just $10.1 million in 2,806 theaters despite the higher price of 3D tickets. The Top 10 grossed $99.4 million over the four-day weekend, but since we think no movie this week will bring in $20 million over the four days (and possibly not even $15 million), this is going to be another down weekend from last year.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

(Note: All the below are four-day predictions.)

(UPDATE: While Lawless only made $1.1 million on Wednesday, it’s adding more theaters on Friday and we think it will have a nice bump on Friday and with the holiday weekend. The Oogieloves tanked yesterday but it can also get a bump over the weekend with the holiday though it probably will end up with $2 million or less over the four-day weekend.)

1. The Possession (Lionsgate) – $14.5 million N/A

2. Lawless (The Weinstein Co.) – $11.6 million N/A (Up .4 million)

3. The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate) – $8.5 million -37%

4. ParaNorman (Focus Features) – $7.6 million – 13%

5. The Bourne Legacy (Universal) – $7 million -25%

6. The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Disney) – $6.5 million -8%

7. The Campaign (Warner Bros.) – $6 million -19%

8. 2016 Obama’s America (Rocky Mountain Pictures) – $6 million -3%

9. The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros.) – $5.8 million -19%

10. Hope Springs (Sony) – $5.5 million -8%

The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure (Freestyle Releasing) – $2.0 million N/A (down 2.5 million)

No actual “Chosen One” this week but our favorite movie of the week is…

For a Good time, Call… (Focus Features) co-written and starring Lauren Anne Miller (Seth Rogen’s wife) playing a reserved young woman (also named Lauren) who ends up moving in with her high school rival Katie (Ari Graynor) who just happens to be subsidizing her day job by working as a phone sex operator. Desperate for a job herself, Lauren convinces Katie to set up their own business which takes off as they become more friendly. Also starring Justin Long and with cameos by some very funny comics, it opens in select cities this Friday and then expands nationwide on Friday, September 7.


Orlando Bloom stars in The Good Doctor (Magnolia) as Dr. Martin Blake, a young doctor trying to make his mark among his colleagues (Rob Morrow, Troy Garity, Taraji P. Henson), but it’s only when he encounters an 18-year-old with a kidney infection (Riley Keough) when he finally has a chance to show off his skills, even though it doesn’t go as planned. After playing on VOD, it opens on Thursday in L.A. (Sundance Cinema) and Friday in New York (Cinema Village).

Shawn Ashmore, Ashley Bell, Dominic Monaghan and Shannyn Sossamon star in The Day (WWE Studios) as a group of five survivors of an Apocalypse that’s destroyed most of civilization. They take refuge in an abandoned farmhouse and fight for their own survival over the course of 24 hours. It opens in select cities on Wednesday.

Review from Toronto

Danish journalist Mads Brügger stars and directs the comic semi-documentary The Ambassador (Drafthouse Films) in which he explores the world of political corruption in parts of Africa that allow wealthy businessmen and criminals to become diplomats so he goes through the process himself with hidden cameras as he encounters corrupt bureaucrats and criminals. It opens in New York on Wednesday and on Friday in L.A. and Austin.

Tsui (Once Upon a Time in China, Seven Swords) Hark’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate IMAX 3D (Indomina Releasing) is, as you might guess, the first Chinese language film to be released in the IMAX 3D format. It stars Jet Li as Zhao, a mysterious swordsman who finds himself caught up in a group of individuals who hole up at the Dragon Gate Inn to avoid a sandstorm including a pregnant palace concubine being chased by the royal guard and the swordsman who is accompanying her who claims to be Zhao. It opens on Friday in New York (AMC Empire 25) and L.A. (AMC Burbank 16).

Lastly, Jessica Biel stars in Pascal (Martyrs) Laugier’s The Tall Man (Image Entertainment) about a town in which children are being abducted by an entity known as “The Tall Man” (hence the title) and when her son David is taken, the town nurse Julia Denning (Biel) must set aside her skepticism to rescue him. It opens in select cities.

Next week, the month of September kicks off with just one new wide release, the Sundance literary drama The Words (CBS Films), starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde and Jeremy Irons. (Focus Features’ For a Good Time, Call… should also expand wider.) Also, next week we’re doing a special two-for-one in preparation for the Toronto International Film Festival, so don’t be surprised if we also talk about the action-horror franchise Resident Evil: Retribution (Screen Gems) and Finding Nemo 3D (Disney).

Look for our summer box office wrap-up and a preview of TIFF sometime before then.

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas