Exit of 'Gangster Squad' leaves slim pickings for frame

The retreat of Warner Bros.’ “Gangster Squad” to 2013 has left a gaping hole in what is typically one of the slowest weekends at the domestic box office. In fact, none of this weekend’s players — holdover or new — is expected to hit double digits, which could result in the lowest-grossing three-day frame in more than a decade.

CBS Films’ adult-femme targeted “The Words” — one of five Sundance titles to bow this weekend — goes head-to-head with Lionsgate’s soph-sesh holdover “The Possession.” Each pic is projected to gross around $7 million, though there’s a potential $9 million upside for “Words.”

The frame’s other wide release, Summit’s “The Cold Light of Day” (at 1,511 locations), will likely top out, at best, at around $2 million.

Warner bumped “Gangster Squad,” originallydated for this weekend, to Jan. 11 in response to the July 20 shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Warner made the move to allow time to reshoot a scene that depicted a similar shooting at a movie theater, as well as to distance the R-rated pic from the tragedy.

The reality now is that weekend totals could fall below the $67.2 million tally set Sept. 5-7, 2003, when two modest performers — “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” and “Jeepers Creepers 2″ — jockeyed for No. 1, with $6.7 million and $6.6 million, respectively. During the Sept. 21-23, 2001, frame, Paramount’s “Hardball” won with $8.1 million, followed by Miramax’s “The Others” with $5.1 million.

Either scenario could happen: If “Possession” drops 60% — a touch better than most horror pics — it would gross roughly $7 million, based on the film’s $17.7 million three-day bow last weekend. But the pic could fall as much as 65%, putting it near to $6 million and likely behind “Words.”

CBS Films acquired “Words,” which cost $6 million to produce, at this year’s Sundance for $2 million, with an added minimum guarantee P&A spend of $1.5 million. The distrib focused its marketing campaign on the love story between stars Bradley Cooper, who also exec produced, and Zoe Saldana. “Words” could develop shapely legs as long as femmes spark to the film.

For thriller “Cold Light of Day,” which stars Henry Cavill, Sigourney Weaver and Bruce Willis, Summit reduced risk by partnering with Intrepid, which shouldered the other half of the $20 million budget. Pic was originally slated to bow limited, but exhibitors requested that Summit go wide with it after “Gangster Squad” bolted. It’s seen modest results overseas for several weeks now.

In addition to “The Words,” the weekend’s other Sundance 2012 alumni include Radius-Weinstein Co.’s “Bachelorette,” which launches today at 47 theaters after preeming earlier on VOD, as well as Music Box’s gay-themed “Keep the Lights On,” at five locations in New York and L.A.

Todd Louiso’s Melanie Lynskey starrer “Hello I Must Be Going” bows at two playdates via Oscilloscope, while Tribeca Films’ “For Ellen,” starring Paul Dano, plays this weekend only at New York’s Film Forum.

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