Faith-based 'War Room' pushes 'Straight Outta Compton' out of top spot

The faith-based drama "War Room" pushed three-time box office champion "Straight Outta Compton" out of its top spot, adding a surprise twist to an otherwise slow end to the summer box office season.

The long Labor Day weekend, one of the slowest on record, is expected to finish with about $117 million in ticket sales, according to film tracking firm Rentrak.  However, the box office for all of summer is still looking strong. Ticket sales are expected to reach $4.48 billion in the U.S. and Canada. Final figures will be determined on Tuesday.

If estimates hold, the summer will be the second best ever, falling just behind the $4.75-billion record set in 2013. Year-to-date, through Sunday, the box office is up 5.4% over last year.

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The summer box office was driven by Universal and Disney, both which announced end-of-summer milestones on Sunday.

Universal said its summer tentpole "Jurassic World" crossed $1 billion overseas, making it only the fourth film ever to reach this milestone. Its $1.003 billion in ticket sales outside of the U.S. and Canada ranks behind only "Avatar" ($2.027 billion), "Titanic" ($1.528 billion) and Universal’s "Furious 7" ($1.162 billion). 

Disney said that it will close out its summer Monday with a projected $1.088 billion from the May 1 through Sept. 7 period, marking the studio's first billion-dollar summer. 

The winner of the slower Labor Day weekend, however, was "War Room." The film jumped to No. 1 in its second weekend after pulling in an estimated $9.4 million Friday through Sunday from a modest 1,526 locations, according to early figures. If Labor Day estimates hold, the film will reach an estimated domestic total of nearly $28 million by the end of Monday.

“War Room," released by Sony Pictures Entertainment's TriStar label, cost $3.5 million to make. The film follows a woman who turns her closet into a "war room" in order to regain her spiritual footing in a quest to save her rocky marriage.

It is the latest from the Kendrick brothers, Alex and Stephen, and is Sony's fifth collaboration with the duo, who were also behind the 2008 Christian box-office hit "Fireproof." That film cost just $500,000 to make but collected $33.5 million at the domestic box office.

"Though we increased our print count a bit, it's still not as wide as some of these other releases -- and to have this sort of result is just stunning,"  said Rory Bruer, Sony's head of distribution.
"I think it truly shows the Kendrick brothers really know how to speak to audiences in a way that resonates."

The box office success of "War Room" is not surprising, as faith-based films have become large draws for religious moviegoers. Last year's "Heaven Is for Real," also a Sony release, grossed $91.4 million at the domestic box office after costing $12 million to make.

"I think the faith-based films genre has expanded greatly over the last few years," Bruer added. "It's certainly a business we are strongly committed to and embrace."

Reviews of the film have been mixed. The Times called it “a mighty long-winded and wincingly overwrought domestic drama.” Though only 39% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a positive review, audiences gave it an A-plus rating, according to audience polling firm CinemaScore.

Universal Pictures' hit musical biopic "Straight Outta Compton," which dropped 33% in ticket sales from last weekend, added $8.8 million over the three-day weekend, raising its domestic total to $147.8 million.

Coming in third, Broad Green Pictures' "A Walk in the Woods" made $8.2 million over the three-day weekend. The film has made $10.2 million since its release Wednesday.

"We're having a real good weekend for our first wide release," said Travis Reid, president of theatrical distribution for Broad Green Pictures. "Each day has performed a little bit stronger than expected."

Directed by Ken Kwapis ("He's Just Not That Into You"), the adaptation of Bill Bryson's 1998 memoir stars Robert Redford as a travel writer who hikes the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail with an estranged high school friend (played by Nick Nolte). It co-stars Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman and Kristen Schaal.

The film's core audience was female, primarily older than 45. Audiences gave it a B on CinemaScore, and 47% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review.

"We play primarily to an older audience and that's an audience historically that doesn't rush out to see a movie the first day it's released," Reid noted. "We felt by launching it on a Wednesday the word would get out better and I think that's worked out for us."

Paramount Pictures' "Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation" fell just 12% to No. 4 in its sixth weekend. The Tom Cruise film added $7.2 million, making its total domestic haul to date about $180.4 million. The studio announced Sunday that the fifth film in the blockbuster franchise has crossed the $500-million milestone in worldwide box office.

New release "The Transporter Refueled" rounded out the top five, debuting with $7.1 million. The film came off a strong Friday, earning $2.4 million in ticket sales, the most of any film. However, it failed to remain on top, perhaps after suffering from negative word of mouth. The film has an 18% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience grade of B-minus, according to CinemaScore.

The action film cost $22 million to make and was initially set for release in June, but the studio pushed back the date after a reshoot in May. It stars Ed Skrein ("Game of Thrones") as Frank Martin, a former special-ops mercenary who will deliver anything to anyone for the right price.

The new release is the latest film from France-based EuropaCorp, founded by French director, screenwriter and producer Luc Besson. The company created a U.S. distribution and marketing joint venture with Relativity in 2014 that allows EuropaCorp to fully control its distribution in the U.S.  The company now has a catalog of more than 500 films, including the highly successful "Taken" franchise, which stars Liam Neeson.

Its "Transporter" franchise has grossed about $240 million worldwide for combined budgets of under $95 million. The three previous films, which starred Jason Statham, were released in fall of 2002, 2005 and 2008. "Transporter 3" took in $12 million on its opening weekend.

Also in theaters: Lionsgate's "Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos," which broke into the top eight after launching in just 395 U.S. theaters. The film collected $3.4 million, making its per-theater average $8,608 – second highest for the weekend behind only “Grandma.” That film, starring Lily Tomlin, averaged $9,442 on 52 screens.

"This was a summer that on paper looked like it was easily going to be a record breaker. But as with all summers, all it takes is one or two movies not to deliver and you don't get a record," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for Rentrak. "Still, Hollywood has nothing to complain about. We're ending the summer with a whimper rather than a bang but it's still going to lead us into one of the best fall and holiday seasons ever."

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11:40 a.m. This article was updated throughout to include studio comments and other details.

The article first published at 9:49 a.m.