As Summer 2012 officially comes to an end over Labor Day weekend, it looks like the box office draught is likely to continue.
The only movie with real breakout potential is Lionsgate's supernatural thriller The Possession, though it's lacking the Christian iconography or found-footage style that tend to drive the most successful entries in this genre. Lawless and Oogieloves In The BIG Balloon Adventure already opened on Wednesday and showed their limitations: Lawless should wind up somewhere between $13 and $15 million by Monday, while Oogieloves will be lucky to crack $2 million. Finally, 2016 Obama's America is expanding again following an excellent weekend, though it's unlikely that it winds up near the top of the box office.
Produced by horror maestro Sam Raimi, The Possession was originally scheduled for Halloween 2011 with the title Dibbuk Box before eventually getting a more generic title and a bump all the way to the final weekend of August 2012. Horror movies have mixed results over Labor Day weekend. The Halloween remake debuted to $30.6 million, while Jeepers Creepers ($15.8 million) and Jeepers Creepers 2 ($18.4 million) did solid business as well. There have been flops as well, though, with The Wicker Man ($11.7 million), Apollo 18 ($10.7 million) and Shark Night 3D ($10.1 million) all performing poorly.
Previews for The Possession, which opens in 2,816 locations this weekend, take a page from the standard supernatural horror playbook, by featuring plenty of creepy imagery capped off with a showstopper of sorts, which in this case is a pair of fingers crawling out of a young girl's throat. Based on the marketing alone, it would be safe to assume that The Possession can reach the level of similarly-timed Lionsgate thriller The Last Exorcism, which opened to $20.4 million over three days in August 2010.
That movie had a leg up, though, thanks to the popular found-footage conceit and the movie's Christian ties (a priest figures prominently in the exorcism, and the poster even includes a crucifix). The Possession, on the other hand, features predominantly Jewish characters, which will be less interesting to Hispanics who often make up a large portion of the audience for supernatural thrillers. This should keep it under $20 million for the four-day weekend.
Prohibition thriller Lawless has a strong cast that includes Shia LaBeouf, Jessica Chastain and Dark Knight Rises alumni Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman, and has an action-packed campaign targeted primarily at adult male audiences. That was enough to drive the movie to a first place debut on Wednesday with $1.14 million from 2,565 locations (it expands in to 2,888 theaters on Friday).
The Weinstein Company's decision to open an adult-leaning thriller on the Wednesday prior to Labor Day is surely mirrored off of Focus Features's success doing this with The Constant Gardener, The American and The Debt, which had six-day openings of $12.7 million, $19.8 million and $14.8 million, respectively. Using those comparisons, Lawless is in line for at least $13 million by Monday.
Based on the lengthy title, it would appear to an outside observer that The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure was the latest in a series of movies, or perhaps the first big-screen incarnation of an established brand. In reality, these are completely original characters created by Kenn Viselman, who was responsible for making The Teletubbies such a phenomenon.
It doesn't look like The Oogieloves are going to be quite as popular: the movie opened in 17th place on Wednesday with just $102,564 from 2,160 locations, which translates to an atrocious $47 per theater. The movie will earn over $1 million by Monday but won't get much higher, which will make this one of the worst debuts ever for a movie at over 2,000 theaters.
After grossing $6.5 million at 1,091 locations last weekend, conservative documentary 2016 Obama's America is expanding to 1,750 theaters this weekend. With good word-of-mouth and some targeted marketing during the Republican National Convention, it's possible that the movie gets as high as $10 million over the four-day weekend.
Looking at past political documentaries, though, that scenario seems incredibly unlikely. For example, in its second weekend in nationwide release, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 doubled its theater count by still fell 32 percent. Also, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed kept its theater count at the same level but plummeted over 50 percent. 2016 Obama's America should hold better than either of these titles, but that doesn't mean it will come anywhere close to the top of the charts.
Four-Day Forecast (August 31-Sept. 3) 1. The Possession - $15.3 million 2. Lawless - $11.4 million ($13.5 million six-day) 3. The Expendables 2 - $10.1 million (-25%) 4. The Bourne Legacy - $9.3 million (-1%) 5. ParaNorman - $7.8 million (-10%) -. 2012 Obama's America - $6.5 million (+0%)
Bar for Success The Possession gets a pass at $15 million for the four-day weekend, while Lawless just needs to match The Constant Gardener's $12.7 million. Oogieloves needs at least $5 million to avoid being dubbed a legendary flop, and it's not going to come anywhere close.