By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — The horror film “The Possession” is set to claim the No. 1 spot over the Labor Day weekend, though the most frightening thing at the box office may be poor overall ticket sales.
The Sam Raimi-produced scary movie is expected to take in a decent $15 million over the four-day holiday, according to individuals who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
“Lawless,” a crime drama starring Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy, will have to vie for the runner-up position against “2016: Obama’s America,” as each is likely to gross around $12 million during the long weekend. The low-cost political documentary, which has already sold nearly $11 million worth of tickets, will add roughly 700 theaters as it expands to 1,800 locations this weekend.
The biggest flop at the box office this weekend will most certainly be “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure.” The kids film, which is being independently distributed by toy mogul Kenn Viselman, opened Wednesday and is expected to take in a dismal $6 million by Monday.
“The Possession” is based on a story that first appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 2004 about a college student who purchased a supposedly haunted cabinet box at a yard sale. The movie, which stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick, only scored a 31 percent fresh rating Thursday on Rotten Tomatoes.
Lionsgate co-financed the film with Raimi’s production company Ghost House Pictures for around $14 million.
U.S. distribution rights for “Lawless,” meanwhile, were acquired by the Weinstein Co. at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. The movie hit theaters Wednesday, when it grossed $1.1 million. Those who saw the film — 67 percent of whom were over the age of 25 — assigned it an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
Based on Max Bondurant’s popular novel “The Wettest County in the World,” the violent Depression-era picture centers around three brothers trafficking moonshine. Of the new releases debuting this weekend, critics have been most kind to “Lawless,” which premiered to mixed response in May at Cannes.
“Oogieloves” is shaping up to be an embarrassment for Viselman, a veteran of the children’s licensing business known for his work with Teletubbies and Thomas the Tank Engine. The film featuring unknown colorful talking puppets only managed $102,564 when it debuted Wednesday.
The movie will need a miracle to become a financial success. It had a budget of around $20 million and marketing costs of $40 million, all paid for by Viselman and a small group of high-net-worth private investors.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios will expand both “The Avengers” and “Brave” to roughly 1,700 theaters in an effort to promote the movies before they hit home video.
The Marvel Entertainment superhero film, which is still playing in more than 100 locations and has grossed a whopping $1.5 billion worldwide since May, will go on sale on Blu-ray and DVD on Sept. 25. Pixar Animation’s “Brave,” still in 600 theaters, won’t be available to own until Nov. 13. The June release about the Scottish princess has collected more than $440 million in global ticket sales.
Last year, Pixar’s “Cars 2” — which first hit theaters in June 2011 — expanded from around 200 theaters to more than 2,000 during the Labor Day holiday and grossed $1.8 million.