Labor Day is a dumping ground for bad movies, but this year seems more toxic than usual. Three of the four new wide releases–Babylon A.D. (Fox), Disaster Movie (Lionsgate) and College (MGM)–were not screened for critics, while Traitor, the Don Cheadle thriller from Overture, has managed just a 54 percent Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Horror and action have always been good plays on this weekend with Halloween 2007 ($30.59M opening), 2005’s Transporter 2 ($20.1M opening) and Jeepers Creepers 2 ($18.36M) as the all-time best Labor Day openings, but there is no horror on the menu at America’s multiplexes this weekend, and Traitor is more of a grown-up thriller than a pure action genre pic.
That has left the door open for another weekend win for the Ben Stiller-directed Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount). The R-rated movie satire has grabbed an estimated $3M on its third Friday, which should translate to an $11.5M 3-day and a very strong $14.2M for 4 days. By Monday night, the movie will have banked $86.53M, and I am projecting a final domestic take of $115M-$120M.
French director Mathieu Kassovitz’s Babylon A.D. (Fox) managed to score $3.5M on its opening day, enough to win Friday, but the Vin Diesel sci fi flick will finish the weekend at No. 2. I am calling for a three-day of $10.6M and $13.1M in sales by Tuesday morning. Vin Diesel, whose career seemed promising after his work in Saving Private Ryan, will likely post only his 8th-best 3-day opening, behind XXX ($44.5M), The Fast & The Furious ($40M), Saving Private Ryan ($30.6M), The Pacifier ($30.5M) and The Chronicles of Riddick ($24.3M).
There is just no stopping The Dark Knight (Warner Bros), which seems headed for a strong 3rd on the 3-day and 4-day scoreboards. The Christopher Nolan-directed phenomenon generated $2.1M or so on Friday, but the Caped Crusader will get his usual monster weekend bounce. The 3-day total should be in the $8.8M range and the 4-day is looking like $11.3M. Sometime on Sunday, TDK will smash through the magical $500M barrier, and the movie will push to a new cume of just under $505M.
Another holdover The House Bunny (Sony) seems headed for No. 4. The Anna Faris Under 25 Female-driven comedy added $2.7M to start its second weekend, and that should translate to $8.5M for the 3-day and a 4-day of $10.9M. The new cume for this PG13-rated comedy will be a nifty $30M.
Despite sub-$1M days on Wednesday and Thursday, business has picked up dramatically for Traitor. With the always trusty Cheadle in the lead, the movie delivered about $2.3M on Friday, and it will play well with the 25 Plus crowd over the weekend. It should finish 5th with $8.4M by Sunday night and a very solid $10.8M by the end of Labor Day.
The news is very bad for the other two new wide releases. It appears that Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have gone back to the “movie spoof well” one too many times. Disaster Movie (Lionsgate) managed $2.2M on Friday, No. 5 for the day, but it is headed for just $7.3M for the four days. That is far behind previous Friedberg/Seltzer openings Scary Movie 3 ($48.1M), Scary Movie ($42.3M), Scary Movie 4 ($40.2M), Scary Movie 2 ($20.5M), Epic Movie ($18.6M) and Meet the Spartans ($18.5M).
MGM’s College never really had much of a chance. With stars like Drake Bell, who has 54 episodes of the Nickelodeon series Drake & Josh on his resume, along with Andrew Caldwell (a few episodes of Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel), Kevin Covais (the singer known as Chicken Little from American Idol), Alona Tal (10 episodes of Veronica Mars on the CW) and Ryan Pinkston (a season of the Andy Richter series Quintuplets), this should have gone straight to video. The picture flunked on Friday with $660,000, and it will top out at $2.2M for the Labor Day weekend.
The news was also dismal for the Focus comedy Hamlet 2, expanding to 1,500 screens. This Sundance favorite could only muster $600,000 on Friday, and it will be limited to an estimated $2.5M for the long weekend.
EARLY FOUR-DAY ESTIMATES
1. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $14.2M, $4,089 PTA, $86.53M
2. NEW – Babylon A.D. (Fox) – $13.1M, $3,864 PTA, $13.1M cume
3. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) – $11.3M, $4,109 PTA, $504.97M cume
4. The House Bunny (Sony) – $10.9M, $4,016 PTA, $30.45M cume
5. NEW – Traitor (Overture) – $10.8M, $5,258 PTA, $12.3M cume
6. Death Race (Universal) – $9.68M, $3,816 PTA, $26.53M cume
7. NEW – Disaster Movie (Lionsgate) – $7.3M, $2,763 PTA, $7.3M cume
8. Pineapple Express (Sony) – $3.47M, $1,696 PTA, $79.85M cume
9. Mamma Mia (Universal) – $3.33M, $1,751 PTA, $130.42M cume
10. Mirrors (Fox) – $3.29M, $1,809 PTA, $25.36M cume
*Hamlet 2 (Focus) – $2.5M, $1,565 PTA, $3.53M cume
*NEW – College (MGM) – $2.2M, $1,036 PTA, $2.2M cume