'Gangster Squad' Shift Drops Moviegoing

The weekend after Labor Day always has been a weak time at the domestic box office as kids return to school. But this year, the Sept. 7-9 window was a death zone, with total revenue for the weekend plummeting to $67.6 million, the worst showing since the two weekends immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. One possible reason: Warner Bros. pushed back the opening of the LAPD crime pic Gangster Squad from Sept. 7 to Jan. 11, 2013, in the wake of the Aurora, Colo., theater shootings. The period film, starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Josh Brolin, featured a bloody shootout in Hollywood's Chinese Theatre; Warners delayed the film to allow director Ruben Fleischer to reconceive and reshoot the sequence in L.A.'s Chinatown. The post-summer corridor has been a lucrative time for genre fare like Squad; last year, Warners' Contagion opened to a hearty $30.1 million, bringing total revenue for the weekend to roughly $80 million. "Gangster Squad probably would have done $15 million and made up the difference," one film distributor says. As it was, the Bradley Cooper-Zoe Saldana drama The Words opened at just No. 3, grossing $4.8 million, while Summit essentially dumped the Henry Cavill action pic The Cold Light of Day, which opened to a mere $1.8 million. The timing couldn't have been worse for filmmakers at the Toronto International Film Festival, who are hoping distributors will take a chance on indie films just like Words and Cold Light of Day.