'Illusionist' Impresses on Labor Day Weekend

by Brandon Gray
September 5, 2006


Edward Norton in The Illusionist
ummer closed with typical indifference over the long Labor Day weekend, but surging The Illusionist and Little Miss Sunshine provoked some interest. Add in the combined punch of modest openers Crank and The Wicker Man, and overall business saw a nine percent improvement over the same weekend last year.

In first place, Invincible won its second weekend with a $15.4 million four-day frame for a sturdy $38.1 million in 11 days. Thus far, Buena Vista's football picture has followed the pattern of the studio's past inspirational sports dramas, The Rookie and Miracle.

Labor Day weekend's most impressive gross, though, ranked fifth. Proving to be a late summer sleeper, The Illusionist summoned $8 million at 971 venues over the extended weekend, its first nationwide. Like Little Miss Sunshine, the $16 million period drama has maintained a high per theater average with each expansion, suggesting broad appeal and strong word-of-mouth, and, with a $12 million gross in 17 days, it has already exceeded the rosiest of expectations prior to opening.

Independent distributor Yari Film Group's accelerated release plan for The Illusionist has taken advantage of the quiet movie market, and its campaign has played up the distinct picture's mystery. Ads urge people not to reveal the movie's secret, a ploy that has worked in the past with such pictures as The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game and The Usual Suspects. Yari will expand The Illusionist to around 1,400 theaters on Sept. 8.

Fox Searchlight's Little Miss Sunshine mustered a $9.6 million four-day frame for $35.7 million in 41 days and was the only wide holdover to see an uptick on the proper three-day weekend.

Jason Statham in Crank
Crank, a $12 million action crime movie from Lionsgate, was sedate compared to star Jason Statham's Labor Day record breaker last year, Transporter 2, but its $12.9 million four-day debut at 2,515 theaters was about as muscular as the first Transporter. These pictures that aim to be edgy adrenalin rushes rarely bust out, and Crank handily out-pumped recent similar titles like Running Scared and Domino.

The Wicker Man pulled in $11.7 million over four days at 2,784 locations. The Warner Bros.-distributed remake of the 1973 British horror appeared to be a generic creepy kid mind-bender in its marketing, and, without sufficient plot set-up or relatable characters, it opened below genre norms.

The weekend's other wide opening, Crossover, was summarily benched with $4.4 million at 1,023 venues, though distributor Sony claims that the basketball drama was a negative pick-up for $2 million.

Review - The Illusionist
Review - Little Miss Sunshine
9/6/05 - 'Transporter 2' Drives to Labor Day Record

3-day Weekend Box Office Results
4-day Weekend Box Office Results
All Time Labor Day Openings

NOTE: This report was originally written on Monday, Sept. 4 and was revised on Tuesday, Sept. 5 with actual grosses.

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