No Way Home’ in Labor Day Weekend Wasteland

UPDATED: Movie theaters and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad end-of-summer continues at the box office.

Without any major releases on the calendar, Paramount’s “Top Gun: Maverick” and Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” — yes, a movie that debuted in December of 2021 — managed to return to the top of the heap over Labor Day weekend.

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It initially looked like Spidey would take the No. 1 spot, but in the end, “Maverick” beat estimates and came out on top with $6 million over the traditional weekend and $7.9 million through Monday’s holiday. And “Spider-Man,” which Sony re-released with 11 minutes of extra footage, landed in third place with $5.375 million over the weekend and $6.55 million for the four days. In any case, the triumph of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Top Gun: Maverick” highlights the bleak landscape at the box office, considering both of those films are widely available on home entertainment.

It’s an especially heroic weekend for “Top Gun: Maverick,” which is playing in 3,113 venues in its 15th weekend of release. The blockbuster sequel has generated $701.2 million to date, enough to dethrone Marvel’s “Black Panther” ($700.42 million) as the fifth-highest grossing release in domestic box office history. And that’s not the only record it cemented over the weekend. According to Paramount, “Maverick” is the only film to ever be No. 1 at the domestic box office for both Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays.

“It’s without a doubt, that ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is a true cultural touchstone embodying the power of the cinematic experience,” Brian Robbins, president and CEO of Paramount Pictures, said in a statement on Monday. “As we celebrate this enormous achievement and the film’s massive impact, we want to extend our gratitude to Tom Cruise, our filmmakers and cast, Paramount’s marketing and distribution teams, and the legions of both new and longtime Top Gun fans who keep turning out to enjoy this remarkable movie.”

With the re-release, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has now grossed $812.3 million in North America, strengthening its standing as the third-highest grossing movie in domestic box office history. Props to Sony for smartly taking advantage of the desolate moviegoing landscape. But it also could have helped for any studio to, you know, actually release a movie over the holiday weekend.

In fairness, Focus Features opened a new film nationwide, but it debuted day-and-date on streaming so hardly anyone showed up in theaters. “Here for Jesus. Save Your Soul.,” a mega-church satire starring Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown, crash-landed in 14th place with $1.44 million from 1,882 theaters. NBCUniversal, the studio’s parent company, did not reveal streaming metrics. By Monday, it’s expected to reach $1.75 million. Lucky for Focus Features, which bought the well-reviewed movie at the Sundance Film Festival for $8.5 millionits hybrid release on Peacock will help mitigate the film’s dismal theatrical run.

“Reviews are very good, but the film is not connecting theatrically,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “During the last two years, movies released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming have under-performed at the box office. That’s part of what’s happening.”

Oddly enough, given the top two films in the country were many months old, this Saturday ranked as the highest-attended day of the year according to the National Association of Theater Owners. That’s because Sept. 3 was National Cinema Day, which brought out an estimated 8.1 million people as more than 3,000 theaters across the country slashed the price of admission. Participants, including major chains like AMC and Regal, charged just $3 to any movie in any format — far less expensive than the country’s average ticket price.

The heavily discounted prices may have increased attendance (and popcorn sales), but it didn’t do much to boost overall revenues over the traditionally slow Labor Day weekend. In 2021, Disney’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” set a Labor Day weekend record with $94 million. This year, the collective box office tally for every film in theaters is closer to $50 million. Of course, it’s tougher than usual to compare because of Saturday’s markdown.

“With National Cinema Day, we wanted to do something to celebrate moviegoing,” said Cinema Foundation president Jackie Brenneman. “This event exceeded our biggest expectations. The idea of ​​the day was to thank moviegoers for an amazing summer, and now we have to thank them for this amazing day.”

Given the domestic box office wasteland, holdovers “Bullet Train,” “DC League of Super-Pets” and “The Invitation” rounded out the top five on box office charts.

In a surprise finish, Sony’s “Bullet Train” beat “Spider-Man: No Way Home” to snag the second place slot with $5.7 million over the weekend (dropping only 10% from last weekend) and $7.33 million through Monday. After five weeks of release, the Brad Pitt-led “Bullet Train” has generated a solid $87.8 million to date.

In fourth place, the Warner Bros. animated “DC League of Super-Pets” added $5.04 million from 3,115 locations and closed the Labor Day holiday weekend with $6.3 million. So far, “DC League of Super-Pets” has earned $81.7 million.

And finally, “The Invitation,” which topped the box office last weekend, tumbled to fifth place with $4.8 million from 3,114 cinemas. Through Monday, it earned $6 million, taking ticket sales to $15 million.

Updated on Monday at 9:10 am PT.

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