On a Labor Day weekend in which Warner Bros.' "Dark Knight Rises" crossed the billion-dollar mark in worldwide grosses, "The Avengers" hit $1.5 billion and the exorcism saga "Possesson" finished No. 1, the buzz was about the historic pratfall of "Oogieloves," which posted the worst box office opening ever.
An independent kids film featuring colorful giant puppets, the $55 million "Oogieloves" took in $448,000 from 2,160 screens between Friday and Sunday, a $207 per-screen average. That's even lower than last year's "Creature," which average $217 on 1,507 screens.
In sharp contrast, horrormeister Sam Raimi's produced "Possession" (pictured above) ran up $17.7 million and will wind up with around $21 million for the four days. It opened on 2,816 screens.
"Oogieloves' opening also made for some seasonal symmetry: the summer that began with the best opening ever – the $207 million debut of Disney and Marvel's "The Avengers" in May – ended with the worst opening ever.
It's been clear for weeks that the summer would be flat compared with last year and the numbers bear that out. This summer's films grossed $4.27 billion, down 2.84 percent from last year's $4.4 billion. Admissions were at 526 million, compared to 545 million tickets sold last year, a 3.56 percent drop, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co.
Despite its dismal showing, Kenn Viselman, the man behind "Oogieloves," isn't deterred. In fact, the buzz could turn into a positive, he said.
This was never about box office," Viselman told TheWrap Monday morning. "It was about exposure. We've now got the notoriety we were trying to get for weeks before the film opened," he said. He said that a financing glitch weeks before the release hurt the marketing of the film.
"I won't say we're not disappointed, for our team and for the exhibitors who both did a great job," he said. "But this wasn't made to win the Academy Award -- it was made to get parents to get up and dance with their kids. I know from talking with parents who did take their kids to see it, that they loved it.
"The attention we're getting as a result of this is going to help our video on demand and DVD campaigns," he said, "and it's going to help the next films, whether they're theatrical releases or video."
Viselman did say the screen count would be cut back for next weekend and that the plan would be to feature it in early morning screenings. "Kind of like 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but in the morning instead of midnight."
He maintained that all the talk, albeit mainly negative, could ultimately help. "Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz can have flops," Viselman said. "Why can't Zoozie?"
He was refencing a character in the movie. Cloris Leachman, Toni Braxton, Christopher Lloyd, Cary Elwes and Chazz Palminteri appear in or do voice work in the film.
The win by "Possession" means that Lionsgate has had the No. 1 movie in the country for three straight weekends, after "Expendables 2" held the top spot for the last two.
The marketing campaign for "Possession" targeted horror fans who tend to be young females, and placed a special focus on Hispanic media. The campaign paid off: 59 percent of the audience was female, 54 percent was under the age of 25 and the Hispanic turnout was strong. The film received a "B" CinemaScore, strong for a horror movie.
The weekend's No. 2 film was the Weinstein Co.'s "Lawless," which took in $10 million for the three days and $13 million over the four days on 2,888 screens. The R-rated Prohibition era crime drama starring Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy opened Wednesday and should have an overall gross of about $15 million by the end of the weekend.
"Expendables 2" was third with a three-day haul of $9 million, and $11.4 million for the four days. It's overall gross is nearing $70 million.
Apparently getting no bounce from last week's Republican National Convention, Rocky Mountain Pictures' documentary "2016 Obama's America" took in $5.1 million, a 22 percent drop from its surprising showing the previous weekend. The documentary was expanded to 1,747 locations from 1,091 last weekend and its per-screen average fell from $5,966 to $2,921.
Meanwhile, other box office returns showed the stop top-action animation film "ParaNorman bringing in $6.6 million in its fourth week for Focus Features. It will finish the four days near $9 million.
Disney's "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" managed $6.2 million for the three days, $8.29 million over the four.
Warner Bros.' "Dark Knight Rises" raised its domestic gross to $431 million after taking in $5.9 million it its seventh week.
Hitting the billion dollar mark was a journey for "Dark Knight Rises." It will have brought in another $7.8 million over the four-day weekend domestically, but an even more impressive $46 million from 64 foreign markets. More than 28 million of that came from China, where it opened last Monday.
Worldwide, it has grossed more than $1.005 billion since its $160 million July 20 U.S. opening -- best ever for a 2D movie -- was marred by the Colorado shooting tragedy.
Warner Bros. political comedy "The Campaign" had a $5.6 million three-day total -- which put it just ahead of "2016: Obama's America" -- in its fourth week and should hit $7 million for the four days..
Sony's "Hope Springs" took in $4.7 million over the three days to up its overall gross to $52 million date after four weeks. The four-day estimate is $6 million.
(Home page photo by Getty Images)