THE WEEKEND'S WINNERS: Lionsgate and Sony. Lionsgate’s diabolically frugal The Last Exorcism (acquired for only $1 million, and made for just $2 million) brought in an estimated $21.3 million; right behind it with $21 million was Sony/Screen Gems’s urban heist movie, Takers. A fine weekend, and not even the most critically reviled.
THE WEEKEND’S LOSERS: Avatar fetishists who paid almost $20 just to see the soft-core Na-vi-on-Na'vi action they'd long been dreaming about in Avatar Special Edition: An IMAX 3D Experience.
HOW IT ALL WENT DOWN: This end-of-summer weekend was all about the young audience: Lionsgate's exit polls showed that 65% of the film's audience was under 25. One key to winning over the youth’s zeal was a rather disconcerting online campaign — later popularized via YouTube — in which a young, lissome teen girl talking up unsuspecting Chat Rouletters suddenly morphs into a demonically possessed patient in real need of a chiropractor. (Not for the squeamish, but rather clever.)
The film also benefited from Latina women's apparent but little-cited love of demonic possession: the exit polls also found that 52% of the audience was female, while 54% was Latino.
Hot on Last Exorcism's heels was the heist film Takers, packed with a cavalcade of African-American stars (Chris Brown, Idris Elba, T.I., Michael Ealy, Zoe Saldana, Steve Harris), along with Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, and Hayden Christensen for white people who love the B list. Like Last Exorcism, Takers played well with urban audiences and beyond, but Sony’s internal research found that more than half of its movie's audience (51%) was under 25 years old. It also had a similar male/female equal split to Exorcism, with 52% female; in other words, it played well with young and old, male and female.
Combined, the two films — and their studios — dominated the weekend. Lionsgate’s Expendables raked in another $9.5 million to finish third, with Sony’s Eat Pray Love ($7 million) and The Other Guys ($6.6 million) taking fourth and fifth. On a side note, we never thought we’d live to see the day that a film starring Eric Roberts (Expendables domestic tally thus far: $87 million) was handily out-grossing a Julia Roberts chick flick (Eat Pray Love domestic total: $60 million to date).
Meanwhile, the only other “new” entry this weekend was, in fact, an old one: Available in just 812 locations (including 125 IMAX theaters) James Cameron’s special edition of Avatar (with an extra 45 minutes of butt-numbing but retina-massaging footage) was mathematically never going to hit the top ten, even with its massive ad campaign. So, despite finishing 12th, it can hardly be termed a ‘loser’ — unlike those patrons who were just in it for the Na’vi frottage. What’s more, Avatar can also now say it grossed three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide, so there’s that.