So no one really went to the movies this weekend, huh? The paltry numbers are still rolling in, but there’s no denying the truth: It’s been more than 15 years since America spent so little money at their local theater. That’s right: You have to go back to late September of 2001, when the country was still reeling from the horror of the September 11th attacks, to find a combined box-office total lower than the $49 million everything currently in theaters managed to gross this weekend.
There are a few reasonable explanations for this mass multiplex snubbing. For plenty of students, college or otherwise, summer is basically over; some schools started classes again this morning, and catching up with The Hitman’s Bodyguard was probably pretty low on the final-hours-of-freedom priorities list. Hurricane Harvey may also have hurt ticket sales, in part because several theaters in Texas closed during the storm, but also because, again, seeing Ryan Reynolds fire quips at Samuel L. Jackson probably seemed...less than pressing. And there was, of course, Saturday night’s Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor showdown, which drew millions of viewers (legally and illegally). In fact, some of the few who did head for the multiplex only did so to watch the match; a Fathom livestream of the fight brought in $2.6 million—enough, sadly, to beat one of the actual new movies in theaters, the kung-fu biodrama Birth Of The Dragon, which opened on more than 1,500 screens with a pathetic $2.5 million.
One does have to wonder if this dismal box-office weekend was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Do studios release their least-promising fare during the final days of August because audiences tend to stay away during that calendar window? Or do audiences stay away because the studios refuse to open anything enticing at the end of the summer? The only other new wide release, besides Birth Of The Dragon, was the animated import Leap!, belatedly smuggled into theaters like a write-off by notorious release-date swappers the Weinsteins. Grossing just $5 million on more than 2,500 screens, the cut-rate cartoon landed in third place, behind previous weekend winners The Hitman’s Bodyguard ($10 million) and Annabelle: Creation ($7.3 million). The Weinsteins also claimed fourth place on the charts, as Taylor Sheridan’s snowbound crime yarn Wind River picked up $4.4 million as it expanded into wide release. That’s a rare spot of good news from this poor showing of a weekend, given that the film is now close to earning back its $11 million budget.
There are no big fights happening in the next few days, but also no big movies opening—this is one of the first Labor Day weekends in memory without a new wide release scheduled. Will even fewer moviegoers spend their dwindling summer hours at the multiplex? We’ll let you know next Monday. But the losing streak can’t last for long. Not with that killer clown movie floating into theaters the weekend after.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.