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Movies worked hard for little money over Labor Day weekend


September 08, 2009|Ben Fritz

Neither romance nor action nor comedy could shake Hollywood from its traditional Labor Day blues.

With three new movies -- Fox's "All About Steve," Lionsgate's "Gamer" and Miramax's "Extract" -- all opening to relatively weak ticket sales this weekend, two movies out longer topped the box office.

Warner Bros.' "The Final Destination" was No. 1 essentially by default, as it declined 55%, typical for a horror movie on its second weekend, and sold a studio-estimated $15.4 million of tickets in the U.S. and Canada over the four-day holiday weekend.

It was almost beaten by a movie one week older, "Inglourious Basterds," which continues to benefit from strong word of mouth. It declined only 40% on its third weekend, collecting $15 million and bringing its domestic total through Monday to $95.2 million.

Weinstein Co. and Universal's co-production also continues to do well in foreign countries, where it collected $14.3 million, boosting its cumulative international take through Sunday to $83.3 million. German audiences seem to be particularly interested in the fictional tale of a group of Jewish American commandos seeking to kill top Nazi officers, as the movie dropped only 2% there on its third weekend.

Although "Basterds" continues to help the financially struggling Weinstein Co., "Halloween II" proved to be a disappointment on its second weekend, tumbling 65% from its so-so debut.

Labor Day weekend is usually slow at movie theaters, although some pictures have broken through and become hits over the end-of-summer holiday, such as 2007's "Halloween." There was no such luck this weekend, as total box-office receipts were up only 2.8%, less than ticket price inflation, from a weak 2008.

Three movies aimed at different audiences all came in at the low end of expectations based on pre-release audience polling.

Fox had hoped that by delaying the release of "All About Steve" from March it would benefit from star Sandra Bullock's success with June's "The Proposal," which has grossed $161.1 million domestically.

But the poorly reviewed "Steve," which attracted a 65% female audience, ended up selling $13.9 million worth of tickets over the four days. On a three-day basis, it had the lowest opening for a romantic comedy starring Bullock since 2000's "Miss Congeniality." That movie went on to make more than $106.8 million, an unlikely outcome for "Steve" given that audiences rated it C-plus, according to a person with access to data from market research firm CinemaScore, a low score that indicates poor word of mouth.

Lionsgate's young-male-targeted "Gamer" opened to $11.2 million, less than the studio's similarly themed "Crank" made by the same directors on Labor Day weekend 2006. CinemaScore gave it a C, indicating that it would probably have a big second-weekend drop as well.

Despite a hefty marketing push to give the cult favorite director his first big opening, Miramax Films got the Mike Judge comedy "Extract" to only $5.3 million. On a comparable three-day basis, it barely grossed more than Judge's "Office Space" on its first weekend in 1999, indicating a significant drop in attendance given 10 years of ticket price inflation. As is typical with Judge films, the movie performed best with men ages 25 to 34.

"We gave it a really good shot and supported Mike, which I felt was the right thing to do," Miramax President Daniel Battsek said. "I'm not going to pretend they were through-the-roof numbers, but they were satisfactory."

Miramax, the art house film division of Walt Disney Studios, paid about $3 million for domestic distribution rights to "Extract." The total production budget was $7 million.





Estimated sales in the U.S. and Canada:

*--* Movie 4-day % change from Total Days in (studio) gross last weekend (millions) release (millions) (3-day basis) 1 The Final $15.4 -55% $50.6 11 Destination (Warner Bros./New Line)

2 Inglourious 15.0 -40 95.2 18 Basterds (Weinstein/Univer sal)

3 All About Steve 13.9 NA 13.9 4 (Fox)

4 Gamer (Lionsgate) 11.2 NA 11.2 4

5 District 9 9.0 -31 103.3 25 (Sony/QED)

6 Halloween II 7.1 -65 27.1 11 (Weinstein)

7 Julie & Julia 7.0 -25 80.6 32 (Sony)

8 G.I. Joe: The 6.7 -33 141.0 32 Rise of Cobra (Paramount/Spygla ss)

9 The Time 5.5 -33 $55.8 25 Traveler's Wife (Warner Bros./New Line)

10 Extract (Miramax) 5.3 NA $5.3 4 *--*

Industry totals

*--* 4-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $127.0 +2.8% $7.41 +7.8% *--*

Sources: Times research and Box-Office

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