Forecast: Fall 2012 Kick-Off Poised to Be Worst Weekend of the Year
The first weekend of September is notoriously one of the places where tough sells go to die at the box office, and this year fits well in to that model. For a while, Bradley Cooper drama The Words looked like the only nationwide release, though last week Lionsgate/Summit recently decided to move forward with a nationwide release for Bruce Willis-Henry Cavill thriller The Cold Light of Day. Neither of these movies is getting much attention, and this will likely be the first weekend in four years where no movie earns more than $10 million.

The Words is debuting at 2,801 locations, which is a very wide opening for the kind of romantic drama that would have probably seen a platform release if it weren't for Bradley Cooper's presence. Between the two Hangovermovies and surprise hit Limitless, Cooper has built a solid fanbase, and the box office success or failure for The Words is dependent on at least some of this group turning out. That's because previews are just as bland as the title, and give audiences nothing to latch on to story-wise. Reviews aren't going to help at all either, as the movie currently sits at a terrible 18 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. According to distributor CBS Films, The Words is expected to earn between $6 and $7.5 million this weekend, and if it's on the higher end of that range it could wind up in first place ahead of The Possession.

Soon after the Lionsgate/Summit merger, Summit's The Cold Light of Day was relegated to limited release status, suggesting it was going to be a victim of the merger. Whether because of a contractual obligation to Bruce Willis or because of the decrepit state of the box office, the studio just last week officially decided to go with a nationwide release at 1,511 locations. Unfortunately, it has barely received any marketing push, and will be lucky to crack the Top 10 this weekend.

With The Words and The Cold Light of Day poised to disappoint, the biggest box office story of the weekend may be the performance of Steven Spielberg classic Raiders of the Lost Ark, which is playing at 267 IMAX locations as part of the promotional campaign for the Sept. 18 Blu-ray release of Indiana Jones: The Complete Collection. There hasn't been any significant marketing push, but word-of-mouth among Indiana Jones fans has already gone a long way: for example, the AMC Century City in Los Angeles has already sold over $9,300 worth of tickets for evening shows on Friday and Saturday night.

Major releases often average over $30,000 per IMAX theater on opening weekend, and even duds like Sucker Punch can still muster major attendance(over $17,000 in that case). If Raiders gets to $10,000 per theater (a reasonable tally, given the exclusivity of the release), it could crack the Top 10, which would be a huge accomplishment.

Weekend Forecast (Sept. 7-9)

1. The Possession - $7.6 million (-57%)

2. The Words - $5.6 million

3. Lawless - $5.4 million (-46%)

4. The Expendables 2 - $4.5 million (-50%)

-. Raiders of the Lost Ark - $2.9 million

-. The Cold Light of Day - $2.4 million

Bar for Success

With a significant marketing push and a very wide release, The Words needs to earn at least $10 million this weekend. The Cold Light of Day is in fine shape at $5 million. While there was some money spent on upgrading to IMAX standards, Raiders really doesn't need much to be successful: anything above $2 million makes this experiment worthwhile.

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