‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Tops Weak Labor Day Box Office, Summer Stumbles to Close

Hollywood didn’t have much to celebrate this Labor Day. The holiday is traditionally a slow one at the box office, and this one was no exception, providing one final death rattle on a summer that was largely D.O.A.

In its fifth week of release, “Guardians of the Galaxy” prevailed over two modestly budgeted newcomers, “November Man” and “As Above, So Below,” to hold on to the top spot on domestic box office charts with $22.2 million over the four-day holiday. Its domestic total now stands at $280 million and the film will likely hit $300 million stateside by the time it ends its run.

“‘Guardians’ is just rolling right now,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “It’s unconventional, it shatters expectations and there’s a real story to it.”

For the major studios, back to school time represents a reprieve. The summer box office will close down nearly 15% from last year’s record breaker, depressing year-to-date comparisons, as well. Currently, the 2014 domestic box office is off more than 5% from 2013, and while Labor Day has never been an occasion for boffo ticket sales, this year was down 16% from the previous holiday.  Final numbers won’t be calculated until Tuesday, but it appears that this summer will be the worst in eight years.

SEE ALSO: How Marvel Guards Its Properties But Isn’t Afraid to Take Chances With Its ‘Galaxy’

The new releases this weekend were indifferently received, with “As Above, So Below” faring slightly better, nabbing fifth place with $10.3 million from 2,640 locations over the four-day weekend. “November Man” slid into sixth position with $10.2 million from 2,774 theaters. The good news is both were inexpensive propositions.

Legendary Pictures paid a mere $5 million to produce “As Above, So Below,” a tale of treasure hunters in the Paris catacombs, so the picture could end up being profitable after theater owners take their cut and promotional costs are taken into account.

“It’s where we expected it to be,” said Nikki Rocco, head of domestic distribution at Universal. “It’s a micro-budgeted film that found its core audience.”

“As Above, So Below” played equally well to women and men, with Hispanics making up the largest share of its audience with 34%; 65% of ticket buyers were under 25 years old. The film is the first release in Legendary’s new distribution pact with Universal. It was previously housed at Warner Bros.

Likewise, Relativity Media only shelled out $3 million to distribute “November Man” Stateside. The picture about a retired CIA agent (Pierce Brosnan) who becomes embroiled in a political conspiracy cost $20 million to produce. The film skewed older,  with 83% of the opening weekend audience clocking in at over the age of 25 and was predominantly male (55%).

It doesn’t constitute as a new release, but Columbia Pictures re-released “Ghostbusters” in honor of its 30th anniversary this weekend, and nostalgia for all things Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, contributed to $2.2 million in ticket sales from 784 locations. A spiffy new Blu-ray hits stores on Sept. 16 — sadly, Bill Murray’s attendance at your next house party or kickball game is not one of the extras.

The rest of the top five box office slots were filled by holdovers, with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” taking advantage of the weaker competition to nab runner-up position with $15.7 million from 3,543 locations.

Among art house releases, Sony Pictures Classics’ World War II drama “The Notebook” picked up $4,027 from two scenes over the four-day period, and Open Road’s “Chef” crossed $30 million domestically after expanding from roughly 100 to 757 locations for one last hurrah. In its seventh week in theaters, IFC’s “Boyhood” added more than $2 million to the pot, bringing its domestic total to just under $20 million.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the success of “Cantinflas,” a biopic about the Mexican comic and co-star of “Around the World in 80 Days.” The film arrives courtesy of Pantelion Films, a joint venture between Lionsgate and Mexican media corporation Grupo Televisa that produces films for Latino audiences. It picked up $3.3 million from 382 U.S. locations. Ignore this audience at your own peril, Hollywood.

Despite the dreary results, obituary writers should hold off on drafting their panegyrics for the movie business. After all, 2015 brings sequels to “Star Wars,” “The Avengers,” “Jurassic Park” and James Bond, a greatest hits collection that should lure moviegoers back to theaters.

“Hollywood doesn’t seem to be panicking because it knows this is just temporary,” said Contrino. “The sky is not falling. The exhibition industry is not doomed.”

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  1. Zerrick Anthony says:

    A movie doesn’t gross 300 millions simply because other movies were poor…that’s about the most foolish explanation for success I’ve ever heard. If the movies were so bad this year and Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t so exceptional wouldn’t conventional wisdom expect that movie to follow suit?

    This movie bucked the trend and will be the first movie of the entire year to break that 300 million threshold, you don’t do that unless there is good will for the movie. The “good will” isn’t something that was w/the movie from the beginning, it’s something that came by the good word of mouth. This movie is one of the highest rated movies of the year on Rotten Tomatoes and received an A+ from audiences- so to say the movie is “massively overrated” means one of two things. Either you share an opinion in the minority and your view isn’t echoed by the majority of others or you’re a hater who can’t face facts. Either case, though the numbers speak for themselves.

  2. Bob says:

    Guardians is a massively overrated movie.
    It is such a success because this has been a very very weak movie summer.

    • gary says:

      I agree that it’s really overrated. I thought it was okay but nothing I haven’t seen a million times in a million other movies. Marvel/Disney has spent a ton of money on press/marketing. You’ll notice that there are articles about the movie pretty much every three days and spread across various sites and search engines.

  3. harry georgatos says:

    Time to release Spike Lee’s directors cut of Oldboy with 35 minutes missing. With a film like Oldboy sanitized is an oxymoron, and a studio who doesn’t understand its core audience. Also release the 3&1/2 hour directors cut of John Woo’s MI2. The directors cut would have been the first film to have made a billion dollars at the world wide box-office!!!!!

  4. J davis says:

    My theater visits match the economy. Even movies I really anticipate I just wait for dvd. I think it might be possible that I’m not the only one.

  5. John says:

    Usually i see around 10 movies during the summer.
    This summer I saw 1 movie.

    It was purely because of quality. Hollywood didn’t put out a single “must-see” this summer. A lot of the same stuff. A lot of reboots, sequels, and spin-offs that are fun but better for netflix or streaming – not the cinema experience.

    • Steve says:

      Actually, the quality of this summer’s movies are better than a lot of years, based on the reviews and audience reaction.

      – DoFP is the best in X-Men franchise.
      – Guardians of Galaxy is much better than Iron Man 3, last year MCU film.
      – Edge of Tomorrow is a very good movie that most people ignored.
      – Rise of Planet Apes is the must-see movie, with tons of good reviews.
      – About comedy, we have a solid Neighbors and an outstanding 22nd Jump Street, much better than 21st.
      – How to train your dragon 2 is a solid movie, but their marketing are wrong.

      I believe the low numbers of this year box office is not because of quality. It is because we don’t release big franchise this year. We have no popular MCU characters, no DC, no Pixar, no Star Wars.

  6. scott macd says:

    So Relativity Media only shelled out a measly $3-mil to distribute “November Man” (which cost $20-mil) stateside. Since the movie grossed $10.2-mil, I guess that means Relativity will break even or possibly make a small profit. But what happens to the $17-mil unaccounted for from the original $20-mil production cost? Is this deficit covered by overseas sales, or does it simply drown in red ink? Would someone kindly explain what to me remains a mystery? Thanks in advance.

    • jlinn says:

      Per IMDB:

      Production Companies
      Das Films
      Envision Entertainment
      Irish DreamTime
      Merced Media Partners
      No Spies
      PalmStar Entertainment (in association with)
      Solution Entertainment Group

      Dutch FilmWorks (DFW) (2014) (Netherlands) (theatrical)
      Relativity Media (2014) (USA) (theatrical)
      Shaw Organisation (2014) (Singapore) (theatrical)
      Wild Bunch (2014) (Germany) (theatrical)
      Ascot Elite Entertainment Group (2014) (Switzerland) (all media)
      E Stars Films (2014) (China) (all media)
      Eagle Films (2014) (Non-US) (all media) (Middle East)
      NOS Audiovisuais (2014) (Portugal) (all media)
      Pinema (2014) (Turkey) (all media)
      Solution Entertainment Group (2014) (World-wide) (all media) (sales)
      VVS Films (2014) (Canada) (all media)

      So if each distrib kicked in $1-$3 million each the costs of the movie was pretty much covered before release. If any cost wasn’t covered, once the producers get their cut from whichever distrib didn’t pay to keep theatrical rentals they will probably do ok. But keep in mind usually the distrib is on the hook for P&A, so Relativity spent more than $3 million, but nothing like what a tentpole release would spend, so Relativity will probably eke out a profit either from theatrical or once it hits homes.

      • scott macd says:

        To Jlinn–Thank you so much for explaining to me in such lucid and intelligent detail how a movie like “November Man”, thanks to multi-worldwide distribution deals, will indeed probably make a profit. I’m sure the same is true of many other movies whose very existence has baffled me. You are a prince!
        With all good wishes, scottmacd

  7. We’re definitely on the precipice of a major shift in movies…like 2015 is JAM-PACKED with blockbusters for sure, they only named a few above but there are so many more to look forward to. Of course Jurassic World and Star Wars Episode 7 are my two top picks.

    • WalterWhite says:

      Two of the movies I’m waiting not to see in 2015. lol As John said above I usually see about 10 myself in the summer but I’m one less than him. ;)

  8. I predict Guardians will hit $300M domestically at the end of the second weekend in September.

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