Movie projector: ‘Machete,’ ‘Going the Distance’ and ‘The American’ go head-to-head-to-head


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Hollywood is targeting three distinct audience segments on the traditionally slow Labor Day weekend at the box office.

With action film ‘Machete’ aimed at men, romantic comedy ‘Going the Distance’ directed toward women and the George Clooney drama ‘The American’ hoping to draw older adults, studios are hoping the weekend’s expected modest ticket sales will be divied up nicely between that trio of low-budget releases.


All three pictures are likely to sell about $15 million worth of tickets this weekend, according to people who have seen prerelease surveys of potential moviegoers. ‘Machete,’ which stars Danny Trejo, a veteran supporting actor in action films, has a slight edge in the most recent surveys, the people said.

The Robert Rodriguez-directed action comedy, in which Trejo plays a legendary hero who combats anti-immigrant forces, is generating healthy interest with men of all ages and particularly strong interest with Latinos.

In choosing the date, distributor 20th Century Fox was likely considering the solid performances of other low-budget action movies that debuted on the Friday before Labor Day, including 2005’s ‘Transporter 2,’ which grossed $20.1 million over the four-day weekend, and 2006’s ‘Crank,’ which collected $12.9 million.

Focus Features, meanwhile, is looking to mirror the 2005 dramatic thriller ‘The Constant Gardener’ with ‘The American,’ in which Clooney plays an assassin working in a small town in Italy. The film debuted on Wednesday and generated a decent $1.7 million, with healthy returns in both large and small cities, according to Focus distribution president Jack Foley.

‘Constant Gardener,’ by contrast, brought in $930,000 on its first day and went on to gross $12.7 million by Monday. With a better first day, Focus has somewhat higher hopes for ‘The American,’ which got mixed reviews and cost $20 million to make.

‘Going the Distance,’ from Warner Bros. label New Line Cinema, stars Drew Barrymore and Justin Long as a couple in a long-distance relationship. Warner is hoping that the $32-million production will perform about the same as last year’s romantic comedy ‘All About Steve,’ starring Sandra Bullock, which generated $14 million over Labor Day weekend.

Last weekend’s No. 1 movie ‘Takers,’ from Sony Pictures, could be close to the three new films as it’s expected to fall a little more than 50% from its $20.5-million debut. Lionsgate’s ‘The Last Exorcism,’ meanwhile, will likely take a big tumble after its $20.4-million opening, as is typical for the horror genre.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Danny Trejo in ‘Machete.’ Credit: Joaquin Avellan / 20th Century Fox