With two lousy new releases and a handful of mediocre holdovers, the box office reached its lowest point in years this weekend. The Top 12 earned $51.9 million, which is 37 percent below 2012's previous low. It's also the worst gross since this same weekend in 2008 ($50.3 million).
External factors like the beginning of the school year and the start of the NFL season surely contributed a bit, but the real issue here is the lack of compelling offerings. This really isn't rocket science: if the content doesn't look worthwhile, people simply aren't going to leave their homes, travel to the theater, and drop $8 a ticket.
The Possession repeated in first place with $9.3 million, which is a 48 percent decline from last weekend. That's actually a good hold for a supernatural horror movie, as virtually all of these flicks drop a minimum of 50 percent (and often 60 percent) in their second outings. The Possession has now earned $33.2 million total, which is a bit ahead of The Last Exorcism ($32.1 million) through the same point.
This marked the fourth weekend in a row that Lionsgate held the top spot (two for The Expendables 2, two for The Possession). Add in the four weekends that The Hunger Games ruled in March and April, and that makes eight total wins for Lionsgate this year. That's tops for any studio this year ahead of Universal and Sony, both of which have seven.
Lawless fell 40 percent to just over $6 million this weekend, bringing its 12-day total to $23.5 million. Among recent Labor Day thrillers, that total is a bit ahead of The Debt ($21.9 million) but behind The American ($28.1 million).
The Expendables 2 fell 45 percent to $4.95 million this weekend. It's now made $75.6 million total, which is noticeably off from the first movie's $92 million through the same point.
CBS Films acquired The Words for just $2 million at Sundance, but they surely ran up a nice chunk of change on the major marketing effort. The advertisements were as vague as the title, though, and essentially hung the entire movie on Bradley Cooper's shoulders. Cooper has a nice following, but he's not at a point where people will see a movie just because he's in it (that's not a knock against Cooper, as very few actors can open a movie without any help). There needs to be an interesting premise as well, and The Words just didn't cut it.
The audience was 58 percent female and 78 percent were 25 years of age or older, and they gave the movie a solid "B" CinemaScore. That might be enough to generate decent word-of-mouth, but it would still be shocking if this movie wound up much higher than $15 million by the end of its run.
ParaNorman rounded out the Top Five with $4.2 million, which is off 36 percent from last weekend. The stop-motion animated movie is now Focus Features' highest-grossing movie of the year (ahead of Moonrise Kingdom) with $45.5 million.
The Bourne Legacy added $4 million (off 45 percent) this weekend. On Friday, it became the first (and only) August 2012 movie to pass $100 million, and through Sunday it's at a decent $103.7 million. It's still going to be a struggle to get to The Bourne Identity's $121.7 million, which is a fairly low bar for the franchise reboot.
The Cold Light of Day debuted in 13th place with $1.83 million from 1,511 locations this weekend. Aside from in-theater advertisments and some online placements, the Henry Cavill-Bruce Willis thriller received virtually no marketing, and it wasn't even supposed to be a nationwide release until a week ago. As a result, the movie's utter failure shouldn't be viewed as an indictment of Cavill or Willis; instead, it's simply the result of a cost-conscious studio (Lionsgate/Summit) making the tough call to avoid dumping tens of millions of dollars in to marketing an unappealing movie.
Ahead of the Indiana Jones Blu-ray release next Tuesday, Paramount re-released Raiders of the Lost Ark this weekend in 267 IMAX locations. The Steven Spielberg classic grossed $1.67 million, which translates to a $6,269 per-theater average. That's a little underwhelming (Titanic 3D had a slightly higher average in 10 times as many locations), but it shouldn't be entirely surprising considering there wasn't any significant marketing push.