'Covenant' Hovers Over Weak Weekend

by Brandon Gray
Steven Straight in The Covenant
September 11, 2006

The weekend after Labor Day is traditionally one of, if not the weakest of the year. A lull occurs as the industry and the public transition into the fall season, and the new movies frequently have little appeal. With the release of The Covenant, Hollywoodland and The Protector, this weekend was no exception, but the overall result was off 18 percent from the same frame last year, making this the weakest weekend in years.

Not since Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star opened to $6.7 million on the comparable weekend three years ago has there been a lower-grossing weekend as a whole. What's more, to find a weekend where fewer actual tickets were sold, one has to go back five years, when the box office was diminished in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 Islamic terrorist attack on America.

The first sub-$10 million No. 1 movie in two years, Sony's The Covenant invoked $8.9 million at 2,681 locations, selling fewer tickets than The Craft did ten years ago. The Covenant, a supernatural teen movie, appeared like a male version of The Craft, which instead had four girls dabbling in witchcraft.

Distributor Sony previously found horror success on this same frame in 2004, with Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and last year, with the surprise hit The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Those pictures were aberrations for the time of year—the former an action sequel with a solid fan base and the latter a creepy horror dealing with a consistently popular topic, exorcism—while modest-at-best movies like The Covenant are the norm.

Also debuting and rousing minor intrigue, Hollywoodland uncovered $5.9 million at 1,548 theaters. Movies about Hollywood tend not to attract a mass audience, and, in its marketing, this period murder mystery did not offer any characters to latch onto for its tour through the seedy side. The Protector, a martial arts import featuring Tony Jaa, kicked up less business than the average dubbed Jackie Chan import, grossing $5 million at 1,541 venues.

Last weekend's most impressive gainer, The Illusionist, had the strongest hold of wide releases, down 27 percent to $4.5 million. However, it had a significant expansion, increasing its theater count by 40 percent or 391 theaters to a total of 1,362. Yari Film Group's period mystery has amassed $18 million in 24 days.

The rest of the holdovers fared worse, dropping around 50 percent on average.

• Review - Hollywoodland
• Review - The Illusionist
• 9/12/05 - 'Exorcism' Torments Top Spot

Weekend Box Office Results
Lowest Grossing No. 1 Weekends
Martial Arts Action Movies

NOTE: This report was originally written on Sunday, Sept. 10 and was revised on Monday, Sept. 11 with actual grosses.

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