'Lawless' rises to 2nd place; 'Oogieloves' sees lowest per-screen average

The Stateside summer B.O. season came to a curious end over Labor Day weekend, as Lionsgate scarer “The Possession” scored the holiday’s second-highest debut of $21.3 million, while kidpic “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure” saw a head-scratching domestic launch with the worst-ever per-screen average for a wide release.

Summer totals finished at around $4.27 billion through Monday, down 3% from 2011’s record-setting $4.4 billion sesh. This year’s off period is due mostly to fewer medium-sized hits, coupled with some big-budget misfires ( Daily Variety , Aug. 31) .

The long holiday frame wasn’t expected to close the summer gap, though “Possession” and the Weinstein Co.’s opener “Lawless” prevented any widening of the gap. Expectations for “Oogieloves” were modest, but the dismal $207 per-screen average (from 2,160 locations) trails even the pic’s lowest projections.

“Lawless” rose in the ranks on Monday with an estimated $13 million in four days — enough to beat “The Expendables 2″ (at $11.2 million through Monday) for second place.

“One of the most encouraging things is that our best day was Sunday,” said Weinstein distribution exec Erik Lomis. “Lawless” grossed $3.8 million that day, up 8% over Saturday.

“Possession” saw a 4% Friday-to-Saturday bump, suggesting better-than-usual word of mouth. During opening weekend, horror films usually earn the most on Friday, then drop considerably the following day. “Possession,” which overperformed with Hispanic auds, came in second to 2007’s Labor Day weekend champ, “Halloween,” which earned $30.6 million in four days.

The weekend’s specialty B.O. saw solid perfs for Focus Features’ “For a Good Time, Call,” which averaged $8,090 from 23 theaters in four days, and IFC’s “Sleepwalk With Me,” scoring a $14,103 per-screen average at 29 locations. “Good Time,” which grossed $186,077 through Monday, rated above average with its core under-25 female demo, while “Sleepwalk” did well in Chicago and L.A., totaling almost $409,000.

Disney’s relaunch of “The Avengers,” meanwhile, scored $2.4 million from 1,705 engagements, up from 123 last weekend, for a domestic cume of $620.3 million. Pic crossed $1.5 billion globally this weekend.

Tough ‘Oogie’ love

With its spot in the record books, “Oogieloves” will likely go down as one of the industry’s most peculiar wide releases. Many bizzers question whether a direct-to-homevid launch would have been more effective — certainly, it would have been cheaper.

But producer Kenn Viselman (“Teletubbies”) insisted the pic’s nationwide launch was necessary to give the sort of family exposure necessary for the property’s candy-colored characters.

“Because of the over-proliferation of American television and gaming right now, it’s very hard to break through the clutter,” Viselman said. “We sat down with broadcasters and the top retailers and they said we needed to perform on a larger scale.”

Still, Viselman admitted that such a wide release — at more than 2,000 locations, the widest berth for an self-distributed family film — was a mistake and a result of egos. “From the beginning, we said it would be more economical to go wide,” he added.

“Oogieloves,” which cost $55 million to produce and market, performed worse than last year’s indie horror film “Creature,” which averaged $217 from more than 1,500 debut locations. However, “Oogieloves” sold mostly cheaper children’s tickets and screened only during matinee showtimes.

Viselman said the film tested positively prior to this weekend at upwards of 50 screenings. “If the communication was that people didn’t like the movie, I would have known about it before the film hit theaters,” Viselman said.

Despite the dismal opening, Viselman said “nothing has changed” with plans to move forward on developing two more “Oogieloves” films, though likely not on the same scale as the first.

“It’s very possible that we have a different release plan,” Viselman said before adding that he still intends to release the first film internationally via an overseas distribution partner. BBAM — a split ownership between creatives and investors — has ancillary and foreign distrib rights to the “Oogieloves” property.

While “Possession” played best throughout the Southwest and West, Weinstein’s Prohibition-era pic “Lawless” performed well, not surprisingly, in smaller markets like Knoxville, Tenn.; Richmond, Va.; and Greensboro, N.C.

“Lawless,” which TWC acquired for $5 million, received a B+ CinemaScore, while the low-teens-budgeted “Possession” scored a B rating.

“I think that’s partly the reason why the film went up Friday to Saturday,” said Lionsgate distribution topper Richie Fay, who added that horror auds have been underserved lately. “The film’s campaign was timed perfectly,” Fay said.

Billion-dollar Batpic

Thanks to its $31 million seven-day opening in China, Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight Rises” became this year’s second title after “The Avengers” to cross $1 billion at the worldwide box office.

“Dark Knight Rises,” which has earned nearly $578 million internationally, marks the 13th title to reach the billion-dollar distinction, just ahead of “The Dark Knight’s” $1.003 billion global tally in 2008.

“Rises” hit $1.01 billion globally with revised grosses Monday.

The Batpic’s weeklong Chinese gross could even be higher, since China Film won’t release its official figures until Tuesday locally.

Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man,” meanwhile, won the head-to-head battle with “Dark Knight Rises” in China, earning an estimated $33.7 million. That was enough to lift Spidey’s overseas cume to north of $475 million. Global gross is $735 million.

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