A less splashy closing ceremony

Summer boxoffice games wrap with 'Babylon' likely to top medal stand in modest frame

Labor Day was once a yawn of a boxoffice holiday, with summer's final frame mostly ignored by distributors. But no more.

Five wide openers arrive this weekend. None is likely to get out of the teen millions even over four days, but the sheer number of new titles should help the boxoffice season close strong as summer 2008 seeks to set a record for industry grosses.

The wide openers set for today are Fox's sci-fi thriller "Babylon A.D.," starring Vin Diesel; MGM's higher-education comedy "College"; and Lionsgate's comedy spoof "Disaster Movie." Also, Overture's thriller "Traitor," toplined by Don Cheadle, got a jump on the crowded session by unspooling Wednesday, and Focus Features expanded its comedy "Hamlet 2" to 1,597 locations the same day.

Unfortunately, any boxoffice heft this weekend will have to come in the aggregate.

Rated PG-13, "Babylon" appears the strongest of a weak group of market entrants and could creep into the low- to midteen millions over four days to carry the frame.

But as one rival executive said about the weekend outlook, "Nothing's going to set the world on fire."

"Babylon" likely will draw mostly males, with prerelease tracking showing support evenly among older and younger demos.

"Disaster" doesn't appear particularly eponymous in its opening prospects. But first-frame grosses depend on support from tough-to-track younger demos, so the PG-13 film could do anywhere from low-double-digits to the teen millions.

"Traitor" grossed $792,214 in its first day. Through Monday, execs probably would consider it sufficient for "Traitor" to tread into the double-digit millions.

The R-rated "College" appears struggling to find traction among its target audience of — surprise! — college students. Hitting even the high-single-digit millions over four days would be doing well at this point.

"Hamlet 2," which debuted last weekend in limited release, also is looking a little iffy for big numbers during its first frame in wide release. The Steve Coogan-Catherine Keener starrer could struggle to reach even the high-single-digit millions during its five-day arc after fetching just $245,813 on Wednesday.

Last weekend's boxoffice champ, the R-rated comedy "Tropic Thunder" from DreamWorks/Paramount, is unlikely to compete for a third frame atop the domestic heap. But a $10 million performance seems quite doable over four days, and that could land it in one of the medal positions for the closing event in summer's boxoffice Olympics. (partialdiff)
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