Natasha Calis stars in "The Possession," which was the No. 1… (Lionsgate )
"The Possession" took ownership of the No. 1 spot at the box office this Labor Day weekend, but there was no love for "The Oogieloves."
The horror flick produced by Sam Raimi did stronger-than-expected business, grossing a solid $21.3 million over the four-day weekend, according to an estimate from distributor Lionsgate. "Lawless," the violent crime drama featuring Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy, trailed with a so-so $13-million debut.
And then there were those poor "Oogieloves." The toddler-aimed film from toy mogul Kenn Viselman earned a dubious distinction this weekend: Its three-day weekend gross of $445,089 marked the lowest opening ever for a movie in wide release. By the end of the day Monday, the movie is expected to collect $601,545 — meaning its per-theater weekend average would be a whopping $278. Oouch.
On the opposite end of the financial spectrum, Walt Disney Studios put a few more million dollars in its pocket by expanding both "The Avengers" and "Brave" to roughly 1,700 locations apiece. The Marvel Entertainment superhero movie took in an additional $2.4 million, officially raising the film's worldwide tally to $1.5 billion. Pixar Animation's "Brave" collected $1.9 million over the long weekend, lifting its global total to around $470 million.
"The Possession," meanwhile, scored the second-highest Labor Day opening ever, behind only "Halloween," which started with $30.6 million during the holiday weekend in 2007. The film is the latest low-budget horror success from Raimi's Ghost House Pictures, which also produced "The Grudge" and "Drag Me to Hell." Lionsgate teamed with the production company to make the film, which had a budget of around $14 million.
Based on a 2004 Los Angeles Times story about a haunted cabinet box found at a yard sale, the movie stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick and has been critically panned. However, those who saw the movie this weekend — a 59% female crowd — assigned it an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That's good news for the film, as many scary movies don't benefit from positive word-of-mouth.
Moviegoers gave "Lawless" — about three brothers running a moonshine business during the Depression — a B+. The movie appealed to an older crowd this weekend, as 67% of those who watched the film based on Max Bondurant's popular novel "The Wettest County in the World" were over the age of 25.
Since Wednesday when the film hit theaters, it has collected a total of $15.1 million. The movie's U.S. distribution rights were acquired by the Weinstein Co. for around $5 million at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, meaning the movie should be a solid performer for the independent studio.
That won't be the case for Viselman and his "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure." The movie was financed by the businessman and a small group of private investors for $20 million, and marketing costs amounted to $40 million more.
On Sunday, Viselman attributed the film's embarrassing performance to poor awareness. Viselman, who helped to bring "Teletubbies" to America, said there was a "glitch" with the money for the marketing campaign, which came through far later than expected. However, he remained undeterred, explaining that a second film is already in production — though it may now go straight to home video — with a television program including the characters set to follow.
"For us to spend $40 million to introduce these characters to the world is fine," he said. "I thought I would be calling people toasting with champagne this weekend. I'm upset that some of the reviewers treated this movie for toddlers like 'Gone With the Wind.' The way they're attacking this film, it's like pushing a little old lady in the middle of the street. But this kind of stuff doesn't stop me."
[Updated, 9:38 a.m. Sept. 3: In limited release, the sex phone line comedy "For a Good Time, Call..." had a soft debut. Over the four-day weekend, the movie collected $186,077, for a disappointing per-theater average of $8,090. The film, which stars no big-name actors, appealed mostly to young females, as 70% of the crowd were women and 69% were between the ages of 18 and 34.
Here are the top 10 movies in the U.S. and Canada, based on their four-day grosses. Percentage drops are based on three-day grosses. International grosses are through Sunday only.
1. "The Possession" (Lionsgate/Ghost House): Opened with $21.3 million.
2. "Lawless" (Weinstein Co./Yucaipa/Revolt): Opened with $13 million. Domestic total since Wednesday debut: $15.1 million.
3. "The Expendables 2" (Lionsgate/Millennium): $11.2 million on its third weekend, down 34%. Domestic total: $68.6 million.
4. "The Bourne Legacy" (Universal/Relativity): $9.4 million on its fourth weekend, down 22%. Domestic total: $98.4 million. $12.6 million overseas in 37 foreign markets. International total: $61.3 million.