Among holidays at the box office, Labor Day tends to be right up there with New Year’s as one of the weakest. Most folks spend the weekend cooking out or catching a few rays before summer is officially “over,” and studios tend to avoid releasing new films — and sometimes, they burn off their duds — during the low-attendance frame. But Sony’s move to open the concert doc One Direction: This Is Us over Labor Day makes sense. No matter when they’d scheduled the film, legions of loyal 1D fangirls would turn out all the same. Nothing comes between them and their boys.
And nothing is coming between One Direction and the number one spot…. except maybe The Butler, which could add a third weekend at No. 1 to its already impressive streak. Either way, both films should earn markedly more than the weekend’s other new wide release, Getaway, whose title seems to mirror most critics’ feelings about it. Here’s how the four-day weekend might play out:
1. One Direction: This Is Us – $22 million
Bring on the teens! The glossy concert film, the latest in the modern wave of pop-docs, will certainly open above last year’s Katy Perry: Part of Me ($7.3 million), but it likely won’t be able to match the debut of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never ($29 million). When Never Say Never was released, the Biebs had reached a level of pop-saturation that One Direction, though massively popular, haven’t quite hit. Still, the band, who recently broke the Today Show‘s attendance record by attracting 18,000 fans to Rockefeller Center and scored two No. 1 albums in 2012, have a passionate fanbase that should push their film to the top of the box office. Over four days, Sony’s $10 million doc, directed by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), may draw about $22 million — much of which will come from 3-D ticket sales.
2. Lee Daniels’ The Butler – $20.7 million
The holiday frame will help most holdovers quite a bit, and films often get substantial boosts over the four-day period. The Help leapt 37 percent over Labor Day weekend in 2011, so an increase of at least 25 percent seems about right for The Butler. A $20.7 million frame would give the $30 million Weinstein film an $80 million total after three weekends, though it could nab No. 1 if it notches a better-than-expected hold.
3. We’re the Millers – $15 million
The Jason Sudeikis/Jennifer Aniston comedy will cross the $100 million mark this weekend — an especially impressive feat given its $37 million budget. Millers is expected to take in about $15 million from Friday-Monday, giving it a sizzling $112 million gross.
4. Planes – $9.5 million
The $50 million family film’s weekend gross should ascend this weekend as well. By Monday night, Planes will have earned just over $70 million total.
5. Elysium – $7 million
Matt Damon’s sci-fi spectacle may breathe one final breath before it falls out of the Top 5 forever. The film could score about $7 million, taking its total to $79 million.
Outside the Top 5 will be Warner Bros.’ Ethan Hawke/Selena Gomez thriller Getaway, which currently boasts an embarrassingly bad 0-percent review score on RottenTomatoes. The film, which was made for $18 million by Dark Castle Entertainment, stars Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, and though both stars have had great summers (Hawke with Before Midnight and The Purge, Gomez with her No. 1 album Stars Dance), neither is a proven box-office brand. With zero buzz and a weak trailer, the film may drive away with an awful $5 million. That’s approaching Paranoia-levels of terrible.