Here's your weekend box office returns for the weekend of August 31 - September 2 (new releases bolded):
1. The Possession - $17.7 million three-day / $21.3 million four-day
2. Lawless - $10.0 / $13.0 million
3. The Expendables 2 - $8.9 / $11.2 million
4. The Bourne Legacy - $7.3 / $9.3 million
5. Paranorman - $6.5 / $8.8 million
6. The Odd Life of Timothy Green - $6.2 / $8.5 million
7. The Dark Knight Rises - $6.1 / $7.9 million
8. 2016: Obama's America - $5.5 / $7.08 million
9. The Campaign - $5.6 / $7.02 million
10. Hope Springs - $4.7 / $6.0 million
The Big Stories
Best top 10 since 2007, plus The Dark Knight Rises tops The Dark Knight and The Avengers hits $1.5 billion worldwide
The top 10 films registered the best cumulative total since 2007's $114 million, when Rob Zombie's regrettable Halloween remake ruled the weekend with over $30 million alone. Lawless' second-place finish gave the Weinstein Co. the sixth best opening in its history (in between Hoodwinked and Derailed.) Universal's The Bourne Legacy is on the verge of hitting $100 million stateside, but still needs at least another $100 worldwide to recoup its budget.
On The Dark Knight Rises watch, the film became the 13th film in history to hit the billion-dollar mark worldwide, pushing it past The Dark Knight's total gross of $1.003 billion with a total (so far) of $1.005 billion (via THR). Make of that what you will. By mid-week it will have passed E.T., and by next weekend will have passed Shrek 2 to become the seventh highest-grossing domestic film in history. Meanwhile, The Avengers has just crossed $1.5 billion. It still has quite a bit between itself and Titanic, which topped off at $2.185 million.
Anti-Obama doc close to becoming the year's most successful documentary
A generic Jewish ghost that likes to eat and a chopped-up, unfocused picture about gangsters selling drinks were enough to draw people into theaters for the holiday weekend. No Olympics, no blaming Hurricane Isaac -- it was just people of all variations of families and political refugees seeking shelter from the perceived anti-colonial mentality of Barack Obama and the dreams of his father. Dinesh D'Souza has probably already made the leap that his questionable and controversial documentary will swing the vote for Mitt Romney once the anti-Obama choir are done making it the most successful documentary of 2012. By Monday it will only be about $9 million away from setting that mark over Chimpanzee. How perfect.
Labor Day weekend may help The Possession break a record
That is a word one might be inclined to use for this weekend's box office, too. Labor Day weekend openers have averaged $14.4 million since 2000, and that's over the four-day weekend. Lions Gate, securing their third number-one finisher in a row and seventh of the year, opened The Possession to $17.7 million in just three. Estimates suggest it could earn up to $22 million with the extra day, which would make the Sam Raimi-produced horror film the highest non-sequel, non-remake opening over this particular holiday ever.
The top Labor Day weekend openers since 2000:
Halloween (2007) ($30.5 million), The Possession ($21.3), Transporter 2 ($20.1), Jeepers Creepers 2 ($18.3), The American ($16.6), Jeepers Creepers ($15.8), Balls of Fury ($14.11), Machete ($14.10), All About Steve ($14.05), Crank ($12.8)
That's the list of the best Labor Day openers since 2000 and you'll notice quite a bit of horror-themed entries in there. The month of August has certainly seen its share of horror and horror-ish titles mark their territory here. 2011 was chock-full of them with remakes of Fright Night and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, plus the fifth entry in the Final Destination franchise.
In 2012, along with The Possession we've had The Apparition, we have the wonderful kid-centric ParaNorman and the free-thinker's nightmare, 2016: Obama's America. Feel free to insert your own Oogieloves reference. Their Big Balloon Adventure mustered up only $448,000 (and change) over the holiday, giving it the worst three-day opening for a film on over 2,000 screens, besting the $511,920 of Avatar's "inspiration," Delgo.
August's horrific history
Back to true horror, though, August has certainly seen its share of success for the genre.
Top horror films at the box office in August
Signs ($60.1 million), Alien vs. Predator ($38.2), Freddy vs. Jason ($36.4), The Final Destination ($27.4), The Sixth Sense ($26.6), Halloween (2007) ($26.3 - three-day opening), The Last Exorcism ($20.3), Exorcist: The Beginning ($18.05), Final Destination 5 ($18.03), The Possession ($17.7)
Naturally, horror films don't lend themselves to the same kind of word-of-mouth/repeat viewing that translates into huge successes. Take the Shyamalan films out of the above equation and the other seven movies averaged only a 2.23 multiplier. That will put it in the vicinity of the final grosses of other possession-themed August releases, Exorcist: The Beginning ($41.8 million) and The Last Exorcism ($41 million), not to mention Sam Raimi's own Drag Me To Hell ($42.1 million). With nothing but CBS Films' Sundance pickup The Words and Summit's sure-to-be non-starter The Cold Light of Day opening next weekend, a second number-one finish for "the scariest exorcism film in years" (according to Ain't It Cool News) could put it on pace to best The Devil Inside's $53 million from earlier this year.
[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]