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Weekend Box Office Top Ten: No Major New Releases Brings Disaster UPDATED

Photo of Tom Brueggemann By Tom Brueggemann | Thompson on Hollywood September 9, 2012 at 1:13PM

Don't look now, but this could end up being the lowest grossing weekend in theaters since at least 2008. And if you look at admissions, far worse.
The Words

Don't look now, but this could end up being the lowest grossing weekend in theaters since at least 2008. And if you look at admissions, far worse. The weekend after Labor Day is usually the worst of the year, but even so, business was terrible. The top ten films grossed around $46 million. Could it be a lingering aftereffect of the Aurora shootings? That's part of it.

One empty film slot actually is due to Aurora. Warner Bros. had staked out this date for their "Gangster Squad," but reshoots were needed because eerie parallels to that tragedy pushed that film back to next year. Meantime, it was too late for another studio to fill the void. Had it opened, this weekend would likely have met the level of other recent years. Thus there were no new A-list or even wide audience B-genre movies. The last three years saw "Contagion," "Resident Evil: Afterlife," and "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" opening to over $20 million for the weekend.

For the second weekend in a row, a new wide-release film will fail to make the top 10-- Lionsgate's "The Cold Light of Day" (a Summit Entertainment feature) grossed only $1,800,000 in 1,511 theaters, with limited marketing after foreign territories had already turned up weak. 

1. The Possession (Lionsgate)  - Week 2; Last Weekend: #1

$9,500,000 (-46%) in 2,834 theaters (+18); PSA (per screen average): $3,352; Cumulative: $33,349,000

A not bad hold for this horror film with an original twist (the story has elements of the traditional Jewish Dybbuk legend). For Lionsgate, this puts them in the lead of 2012 weekends with the #1 film (their eighth), but more importantly, gives them and producer Sam Raimi's company a solid low-budget hit with most of the rest of the world still to open.

What comes next: With a likely $40 million domestic gross and likely at least double that beyond, and a $14 million production cost, can a sequel be too far behind?

2. The Lawless (Weinstein) - Week 2; Last Weekend: #2

$6,002,000 (-40%) in 3,138 theaters (+350); PSA: $1,913; Cumulative: $23,520,000

Maintaining the #2 spot  with a modest falloff, this Southern-set period gangster film's performance still seems to justify the decision to go wide rather than limited initially.

What comes next: With its so-so reviews, the likely $30 million-level gross is about in range for what could have been expected for this Cannes acquisition by the Weinstein Company.

3. The Words (CBS) - NEW; Cinemascore: B; Metacritic score: 38

$5,000,000 in 2,801 theaters; PSA: $1,767; Cumulative: $5,000,000

A rarity - this premiered at Sundance, and as such, a wide release is very unusual, even with stars of the caliber of Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons. The results, even factoring in the weak weekend and CBS' relatively low acquisition price ($2 million), are not impressive. Cooper collaborated on this film, co-directed and written by some long-time friends, in order to showcase his non-comedy chops (as he did with far more successful "Limitless.") But counterprogramming to adults requires critical support, which this did not have.

What comes next: An adult audience tends to show up more later in the weekend, but this looks like it will have a quick playoff.

4. The Expendables (Lionsgate) - Week 4; Last Weekend: #3
$4,750,000 (-48%) in 3,260 theaters (-74); PSA: $1,457; Cumulative: $75,417,000

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Box Office

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.