This last weekend was an historically bad weekend at the box office, racking up a measly $65 million (compare that to the estimated $400 million brought in by Mayweather vs McGregor boxing match on PPV). Some outlets are reporting that it was the worst weekend at the box office since 2001, which is not technically accurate. It’s the worst August weekend among the top 12 films since 2001. However, as Vulture reported, it is the worst weekend at the box office since 2014 when Guardians of the Galaxy led the way with $10 million in its sixth weekend.
Given the fact that Labor Day is historically the worst weekend of the year at the box office, and the fact that we’re coming off the worst August weekend since 2001, could this coming Labor Day weekend be the worst since 2001?
It seems likely.
Excluding the weekend after 9/11 when Glitter was the only new entry ($2.7 million) and the box office racked up only $43 million, the worst weekend on record was the weekend after Labor Day 2008. On that weekend, there was only one new film, the Nicolas Cage-starring Bangkok Dangerous, which scored $7.7 million. However, that weekend also had sleeper hit Tropic Thunder ($7.2 million) and the sixth biggest film of all time, The Dark Knight ($5.5 million in its 8th week) to buoy the box-office to $50.2 million. That weekend was also coming off a $73 million weekend.
The second worst weekend since 2001 was the weekend after Labor Day in 2003 ($50.5 million), which was led by David Spade’s Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, which brought in $6.6 million. The other new entry that weekend was Heath Ledger’s horror film The Order, which came in with $4.4 million. That weekend was coming off a $81 million weekend led by Jeepers Creepers 2.
The third worst weekend since 2001 came, again, on the weekend after Labor Day in 2012, which was led by the horror film The Possession in its third weekend. The only new release that weekend was Bradley Cooper’s The Words, which opened with $4.4 million. That $51 million weekend came after an $85 million weekend.
To put those three weekends in perspective, they dropped anywhere from $21 million to $34 million from their previous weekends, an average of 36 percent.
Meanwhile, Labor Day weekend 2017 is coming off of a $66 million weekend, and there’s only one new release: The Weinstein Company’s Tulip Fever, a movie that originally screened to a lukewarm reception at Cannes in 2015. Over the last couple of years, it’s been repeatedly delayed. In another sign that the film is not expected to be very good, the review embargo won’t be lifted until the day of the film’s release, which means the Weinsteins are clearly trying to hide reviews from audiences. For Tulip Fever, the $6.6 million put up by Dickie Roberts in 2003 is a figure that the Weinsteins can only dream of reaching. Moreover, this Labor Day weekend also has to contend with Netflix, which will see the release of Adam Scott’s Little Evil, last weekend’s Death Note, and the third season of Narcos. The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is not likely to help matters, either.
In other words, it’s shaping up to to be a disastrous weekend where The Hitman’s Bodyguard is likely to lead the way with in its third weekend with about $5 million followed by Annabelle: Creation with around $3.7 million. The three worst weekends since 2001 fell an average of 36 percent from the weekend before. If that trend holds for Labor Day Weekend 2017, we could be looking at a $40-$45 million weekend, which really will be the worst weekend at the box office since 2001, even without factoring in inflation. In fact, it may actually come in lower than the $43 million put up the weekend Glitter was released in September 2001.