Weekend Briefing: 'Last Exorcism,' 'Takers,' 'Avatar' Shoot for Late Summer Action
For the penultimate weekend of the summer, The Last Exorcism aims to possess first place with an estimated 3,500 screens at 2,874 locations, while Takers busts in on around 2,600 screens at 2,206 locations. Avatar: Special Edition relaunches at 812 locations, including 125 IMAX venues, and Get Low leaps to a near-nationwide 570 locations.

Though relatively unheralded, exorcism (and haunting) movies consistently strike a chord with certain sects of society, and The Last Exorcism is well-primed to capitalize, adding a documentary/found footage angle in the vein of Paranormal Activity, Quarantine and The Fourth Kind. Last Exorcism marks the first expressly exorcism-themed movie since The Exorcism of Emily Rose in 2005, and its marketing has hit the expected exorcism notes. Exorcism of Emily Rose had a big $30.1 million in its early September launch, while Exorcist: The Beginning nabbed $18.1 million in its Aug. 2004 debut. Late August has also been a prime time for other horror movies, including The Final Destination on the same weekend last year.

Takers sports a sizable list of recognizable actors (Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Hayden Christensen, etc.) and purports to be a slick heist/ensemble action picture. While one television spot pulled some quote proclaiming the movie to be "this generation's Heat," Takers' target audience seems closer to the likes of Brooklyn's Finest, Armored and Street Kings, as its advertising lacked the character focus of Heat, Inside Man and even the main Fast and Furious movies. The ads also favored a "Who's Taking Who?" angle over detailing the heist plot.

With the 3D-only release of Avatar: Special Edition, Avatar's lifetime gross will cross the $750 million mark. Though relaunching a movie soon after its home video release tends to yield little business, this Special Edition counters with the addition of nearly nine minutes of new footage, a sizable advertising campaign and by being many people's first chance to see Avatar in 3D since Alice in Wonderland (2010) took over most of its 3D screens nearly six months ago.

In Box Office Mojo's reader polling, 10.8 percent of respondents voted to see The Last Exorcism on its opening weekend. The movie's results had a similar pattern to The Unborn (2009) (but slightly more favorable) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (but with decidedly less interest).

Takers nabbed a 7.1 percent first weekend score, but its comparables are all over the map: if its appeal is closer to Armored, The Losers or Street Kings, that 7.1 percent result would mean a poor performance, but, if it's more like ATL, Get Rich or Die Tryin', The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift or Brooklyn's Finest, it would point to a solid debut.

Meanwhile, Avatar: Special Edition has packed a strong 21.7 percent for opening weekend, though that is likely heavily skewed by the movie's fandom.

Last Weekend

'Expendables' Battle On, 'Vampires,' 'Piranha' Settle for Scraps

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2009 - 'Final Destination' Rips Into Top Spot

• 2008 - 'Tropic Thunder' Leads Quiet Summer Close

• 2007 - 'Halloween' Severs Labor Day Record

• 2006 - 'Illusionist' Impresses on Labor Day Weekend

• 2005 - 'Transporter 2' Drives to Labor Day Record

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'The Last Exorcism'