Box-Office Preview: Prepare for Slowest Labor Day Weekend in 25 Years

Alex Bailey/The Weinstein Company
'Tulip Fever'

There isn't one new major nationwide release opening over the holiday as the summer box office comes to an unceremonious close.

The Labor Day box office is going to be anything but a picnic, capping off a rough-and-tumble summer and an especially brutal August.

For the first time in a quarter century, there won't be one new major nationwide release on the holiday marquee. The last time that happened was in 1992, when the Matthew Broderick comedy Out on a Limb only debuted in 700 theaters, grossing $1.1 million. Total revenue for Labor Day weekend 1992 was a miserable $57 million, not accounting for inflation. No Labor Day frame has been as bad since then, although this year could mark a new low.

Earlier this month, The Weinstein Co. moved Tulip Fever, starring Alicia Vikander, to Labor Day weekend, but the period drama is only getting a moderate release in some 600 locations. The movie was first set to open in summer 2016 but repeatedly got pushed back.

Sans much competition, holdover The Hitman's Bodyguard is almost assured of remaining atop the chart in its third weekend, likely earning between $5 million and $7 million, followed by Annabelle: Creation.

Otherwise, a mishmash of rereleases and an advance viewing of the first two episodes of ABC and Marvel Television's The Inhumans in 380 Imax theaters will vie for attention. (The comic book adaptation, which premieres in the U.S. next month, is also playing in hundreds of Imax theaters overseas.)

Sony is dusting off Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and rereleasing the classic film in about 900 theaters, timed to its 40th anniversary.

Among more recent titles, Disney and Pixar will rerelease summer 2017 tentpole Cars 3 in 2,445 locations. Last Labor Day, they did the same thing with Finding Dory, which grossed $3 million over the four-day holiday frame.

And, hoping to draw attention to Christopher Nolan's acclaimed World War II epic Dunkirk, Warner Bros. is offering all members of the military, both active and retired, a two-for-one ticket special as a way of thanking them for their service.

By the time Labor Day weekend wraps, summer box-office revenue is expected to finish at $3.78 billion, down 15.7 percent over summer 2016, according to comScore. That's the steepest decline in modern times, eclipsing the 14.6 percent dip in 2014. It will also be the first time since 2006 that revenue didn't clear $4 billion. Year to date, revenue is down 5.7 percent domestically. Overseas, however, revenue is up nearly 4 percent so far this year.

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