‘Possession’ Claims Top Film Slot on Sales of $21.1 Million

The horror tale “The Possession” led U.S. and Canadian ticket sales over the extended U.S. Labor Day weekend, taking in an estimated $21.1 million in its debut for Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF)

“Lawless,” the Prohibition-era crime story from Weinstein Co. was second, opening with $12.9 million, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement.

In “The Possession,” a young girl’s behavior changes for the worse after she opens an antique box bought at a yard sale. Her alarmed parents turn to the Hasidic Jewish community for help after learning the child inadvertently freed a malevolent spirit known in Jewish folklore as a dybbuk. The movie stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick and Natasha Calis.

“It should play fairly well for the next couple of weeks,” said Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries. The Labor Day Weekend is typically one of the year’s slowest for U.S. theaters as consumers close out the summer with a trip or barbecue. “To the extent that movies get released, they are generally not big box-office generators. Hollywood is clearly focusing on their holiday releases coming up and those will either make or break the year.”

Summer Season

Studios ended the summer season with $4.25 billion in domestic ticket sales, down 2.9 percent from the record $4.37 billion set in 2011, as films including Universal Pictures “Battleship” and Warner Bros.’ “Rock of Ages” held back results, according to Hollywood.com.

“Overall, the summer box office was disappointing,” Sweeney said.

“Lawless,” starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jessica Chastain, is based on the true story of the Bondurant brothers, three Virginia moonshiners who smuggled whiskey and battled lawmen during the Great Depression. Based on the novel “The Wettest County in the World.”

Sylvester Stallone’s “The Expendables 2,” also from Lions Gate, had sales of $11.5 million, finishing the holiday weekend in third place. The picture, a follow-up to the 2010 hit, had taken in $68.8 million through yesterday. It opened on Aug. 17.

All-Star Action

Stallone and his team of mercenaries in the film seek revenge for the murder of one of their comrades. The picture features an all-star list of action heroes including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris.

“The Bourne Legacy,” from Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s Universal Pictures, was fourth with $9.3 million. The film, the fourth in the Bourne saga, begins a new storyline without the namesake character of the first three films or actor Matt Damon. Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner stars as super-soldier Aaron Cross.

“ParaNorman,” a 3-D animated children’s film from Laika Entertainment and Universal’s Focus Features, was fifth with revenue of $9 million. The PG-rated comedy-thriller follows a misunderstood boy who can speak to the dead. Kodi Smit-McPhee provides the voice of Norman. Anna Kendrick and Christopher Mintz-Plasse co-star.

‘Obama’s America’

Among returning films, “2016: Obama’s America” was eighth with sales of $7.5 million. The movie, a critical look at President Barack Obama from commentator Dinesh D’Souza, is the year’s top-performing political movie.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose 2.3 percent to $109.5 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Domestic film sales this year have risen 3.6 percent to $7.61 billion, with attendance up 2.4 percent.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 and estimates for yesterday.

                       Rev.            Avg./   *Pct.  Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater  Chg.  (mln)  Wks
================================================================
 1 THE POSSESSION     $21.1    2,816   $7,485    --   $21.1    1
 2 LAWLESS             12.9    2,888    4,457    --    15.0    1
 3 THE EXPENDABLES 2   11.5    3,334    3,436   -33    68.8    3
 4 THE BOURNE LEGACY    9.3    3,131    2,975   -23    98.3    4
 5 PARANORMAN (3-D)     9.0    3,085    2,907   -24    40.4    3
 6 LIFE OF TIMOTHY GRE  8.6    2,635    3,250   -12    38.4    3
 7 DARK KNIGHT RISES    8.0    2,187    3,657   -15   433.3    7
 8 2016 OBAMA’S AMERICA 7.5    1,747    4,303   -14    20.7    8
 9 THE CAMPAIGN         7.2    2,941    2,451   -24    74.8    4
10 HOPE SPRINGS         6.1    2,441    2,517   -18    53.5    4
11 PREMIUM RUSH         5.2    2,255    2,285   -34    13.5    2
12 HIT AND RUN          3.3    2,870    1,136   -43    10.7    2

* Weekly percent change based on three-day comparisons

Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $109.5       $107.1      +2.3


Year-to-date Revenue

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $7,606        $7,343      +3.6

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Jeran Wittenstein in San Francisco at jwittenstei1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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