Labor Day represents the last gasp of summer, the final opportunity to wear white, and the end of Hollywood’s busiest time of year.
It tends, however, to end the season with something of a whimper, as opposed to a bang, and this year will be no exception. For studios, it’s the box office equivalent of Arbor Day. Blink and you miss it.
Two new wide releases enter the market this holiday weekend, the Pierce Brosnan action thriller “The November Man” and the found-footage horror film “As Above, So Below,” both of which are shaping up to be modest performers.
“Labor Day is traditionally one of the slowest holiday weekends of the year, if not the slowest,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “Expectations are not that high and the focus has shifted away a little bit from the movies.”
“The November Man” will get a jump on the festivities, such as they are, when it debuts Wednesday in 2,750 theaters, while “As Above, So Below” will flit across 2,637 theaters beginning on Friday.
Look for “The November Man” to make $9 million to $11 million over the four-day weekend and $13 million-$14 million during its first six days in theaters. “As Above, So Below” will likely pull in between $8 million to $10 million over the four-day weekend. Neither film carries much of a pricetag, so they could both be profitable for their studios even if grosses are on the lower end.
Holdover “Guardians of the Galaxy” will likely be the top earner for the second consecutive weekend and for its third time this summer, pulling in between $12 million and $14 million over the Friday-to-Monday period. In its fourth week in theaters, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” will be right behind “Guardians” with between $11 million and $13 million.
“The November Man” centers on an ex-CIA agent who finds himself embroiled in a wide-ranging conspiracy. It’s Brosnan’s attempt to create the kind of middle-age vigilante that worked so well for Liam Neeson with the “Taken” films. Relativity Media is distributing the picture domestically, and is targeting older audiences. It acquired the rights to the $20 million production for $3 million, making this a low-risk proposition for the studio should that crowd fail to turn up.
“As Above, So Below” involves a team of adventurers on the prowl for a philosopher’s stone in the Paris catacombs. The picture cost a mere $5 million to produce and arrives courtesy of the Dowdle brothers — director John Erick and producer Drew — who previously made the found-footage films “Quarantine” and “Devil.” The picture is the first film to come out of Universal Pictures’ distribution pact with Legendary Pictures. The film financier and producer was previously housed at Warner Bros.
In addition to the wide releases, there are a number of arthouse debuts, such as the prison drama “Starred Up” with bright young thing Jack O’Connell, the Elmore Leonard adaptation “Life of Crime” with Jennifer Aniston and World War II drama “The Notebook.”
For Hollywood, this weekend is a chance to put a period on one of its worst summers in recent history. The overall box office for this popcorn season will be down 15% from last year’s record-breaker, meaning there’s not much to set off fireworks about as audiences head back to school.