Movie Projector: ‘Apollo 18’ could float to No. 1 over slow holiday


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As Americans take advantage of the final days of summer -- throwing their last barbecues and beach parties -- Labor Day weekend is typically one of the slowest movie-going periods of the year.

Over the holiday weekend in 2010, for example, the highest-grossing film was George Clooney’s ‘The American,’ which brought in a soft $16.7 million over four days. This year should see similar results, with three new movies all poised to collect only a modest number of ticket sales.


‘Apollo 18,’ a science-fiction picture shot in documentary style, will probably have the best debut of the new releases. The movie is expected to take in about $15 million domestically over the long weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

‘Shark Night 3D,’ a horror film about vacationers attacked by the sea creatures, should gross around $9 million, while the Holocaust action drama ‘The Debt’ will trail behind with roughly $7 million.

Of course, all the new offerings will still have to contend with ‘The Help,’ the popular big-screen adaptation of the bestselling novel, which just crossed the $100-million mark at the box office this week. After opening behind ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ upon its debut three weekends ago, the film with an ensemble cast that includes Emma Stone and Viola Davis has since claimed the No. 1 spot twice, last weekend collecting $14.5 million.

Box-office receipts were down significantly last weekend, as Hurricane Irene shuttered a number of theaters along the East Coast. As a result of the poor weather and lower-than-expected debuts for the hoped-for blockbuster ‘Conan the Barbarian,’ box-office prognosticators are estimating that the summer revenue will no longer be as high as previously anticipated.

Last week, said summer receipts would be up 3.45%; now, that figure has been lowered to .69%.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how well the mysterious ‘Apollo 18’ will fare at the box office this weekend. The marketing campaign for the film has been somewhat cryptic, giving little away about the plot, which centers around supposed long-lost footage from a U.S. space mission. The picture has also not been screened in advance for critics, typically a sign that a studio is anxious about how a film will be received by audiences.


The movie, which features no recognizable stars, was produced by the Weinstein Co.’s Dimension Films and is generating the most interest among older men. Dimension is need of a box-office hit after the lackluster performance of its recent films, ‘Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D’ and ‘Scream 4,’ both of which are by far the lowest-grossing installments in their respective franchises.

“Shark Night 3D,” which has also yet to be shown to critics, is targeting a teenage audience. The film was produced for about $25 million by Incentive Filmed Entertainment and Sierra/Affinity, but is being released by Relativity Media, which is covering marketing and distribution expenses.

Focus Features released ‘The Debt’ on Wednesday in an attempt to build buzz about the film before the crowded weekend. On its opening day, the movie grossed $958,670, due largely in part to the older adult audience that turned up to see the well-reviewed picture.

The film, a remake of the little-seen 2007 Israeli movie ‘Ha-Hov,’ has had its release date pushed back numerous times. The movie -- which wrapped production in 2009 -- was made for roughly $20 million by then-Walt Disney Co.-owned Miramax Films, the specialty division that was shut down two years ago. The picture’s U.S. distribution rights were later acquired by Focus. Universal Pictures is releasing the film internationally.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate is offering a special sneak preview of its mixed martial arts drama ‘Warrior’ in advance of the film’s opening next weekend. In an effort to spread positive word of mouth about the film starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, the studio will play it in 550 theaters nationwide on Sunday evening.

Lions Gate Entertainment’s joint venture with Mexico’s Televisa, Pantelion, will open ‘Saving Private Perez’ in 161 theaters. The comedy, about a group of Mexican brothers who embark on a rescue mission to Iraq, will open in heavily Latino communities, including Los Angeles and parts of Texas.



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--Amy Kaufman