For whatever reason, Labor Day has become the summer holiday weekend that studios seem to fear in terms of new wide releases. That has only changed fairly recently when Marvel Studios released Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings grossed $94.7 million over the four-day holiday in 2021, as the first MCU theatrical release in over two years.
This Past Weekend
Sony showed no such fear this weekend, releasing The Equalizer 3, Denzel Washington’s return as Robert McCall, into 3,965 theaters on Friday. Once again directed by Antoine Fuqua, the third movie in the franchise reunited Washington with his Man on Fire co-star, Dakota Fanning, who was just nine at the time of the Tony Scott-directed thriller. The Equalizer 3 came into the weekend with the best reviews of the franchise and 75 percent on Rotten Tomatoes,
The Equalizer 3 achieved the 2nd highest opening for Labor Day weekend after Shang-Chi with $13.1 million on Friday (including $3.8 million from Thursday previews) with Sony projecting a $42.3 million four-day weekend with $34.6 million over the three-day portion. The Equalizer 3 received the same “A” CinemaScore as the previous installment from audiences polled, but we might have to wait a bit to see if Washington and Fuqua can be convinced to make a fourth movie together. The movie added another $26.1 million overseas, for a global total of $60.6 million through Sunday.
Warner Bros’ uber-blockbuster, Barbie, ended its summer with another high-note, crossing $600 million domestically and passing Disney-Pixar’s Incredibles 2 to become the 13th highest-grossing domestic blockbuster ever. This weekend, it grossed $10.2 million over the three-day weekend and $13.1 million including Monday to bring its domestic take to $612 million. It added another $13.2 million overseas this weekend for an international total of $771.5 million. More importantly, it has finally passed Universal’s animated The Super Mario Bros. Movie to become the highest grossing blockbuster of 2023.
Blue Beetle hasn’t been doing as well for Warner Bros, its third DC superhero movie of the year, although this weekend it managed to retain third place with $7.1 million over the three-day weekend and $9.2 million including Monday. That’s down just 24 percent from last weekend, with $58.5 million grossed in North America so far.
Sony’s Gran Turismo took a much bigger tumble in its second weekend, down 51 percent to $8.6 million over the four-day weekend to take fourth place with $6.6 million over the three days. It has grossed $30.7 million domestically. It added another $8.7 million overseas for an international total of $50.3 million and global total of $79 million (through Sunday).
Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer continues to set records for the respected filmmaker, ending its summer with $310.5 million domestically and taking fifth place with $5.7 million over the three-day weekend and $7.5 million including Monday (down 9 percent from last weekend). Overseas, the movie finally opened in China on Wednesday with a 5-day opening of $30.3 million in 11,000 locations, including 761 IMAX screens. The latter accounted for $10.2 million, roughly 30% of Oppenheimer’s China bow, but the $49.7 million added overseas this weekend brought the movie’s global total to $851.3 million. That makes it Nolan’s third-highest grossing global blockbuster.
Paramount’s animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem took sixth place with $4.7 million over the three-day weekend and $6.1 million including Monday, having crossed $100 million domestic just before the holiday weekend. It ends the summer with $107.8 million domestic.
MGM expanded Emma Seligman’s Bottoms into 715 theaters on Friday after a successful platform release into ten theaters. It was able to take seventh place with $3.1 million over the three-day weekend and $3.7 million, including Monday. Bottoms will expand into over 1,200 theaters on Friday to try to take advantage of the strong word-of-mouth it’s been getting since its SXSW Film Festival debut.
Last Labor Day marked the occasion for the very first National Cinema Day on the Saturday. Oddly, there was only one new movie in wide release, the popular Sundance movie Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul, starring Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Getting a much wider release was Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home – The More Fun Stuff Version, an extended version of the 2021 blockbuster with never-before-seen footage, which was released into 3,935 theaters. That was enough for it to make $5.4 million over the three-day weekend and $6.5 million including Labor Day.
Still, that wasn’t #1, as Top Gun: Maverick would make a late summer play back into first place with $6 million three-day and $7.9 million over the four-day weekend, as it also crossed the $700 million mark domestically.
Honk for Jesus ended up making just $1.4 million over the Labor Day weekend in 1,882 theaters, averaging $756 per theater, with $1.7 million, including Monday. It barely managed two weeks in theaters before going to VOD.
This weekend, we kick off the fall movie season with a horror movie, a somewhat regular occasion since Warner Bros. had a blockbuster hit with its adaptation of Stephen King’s It, which opened on this same weekend in 2017 with $123.4 million. A year later, Warner Bros. released The Nun, the third spin-off from James Wan’s The Conjuring horror franchise, which opened with $53 million, more than the opening of all previous installments. (The It sequel snagged the same weekend in 2019, opening with $91 million.)
The Nun II brings back Taissa Farmiga, the younger sister of The Conjuring’s Vera Farmiga, once again playing Sister Irene, though she’s not the nun of the title. That would be the demonic Valak, as played by Bonnie Abrams, who originated that character in 2016’s The Conjuring 2. They’re joined this installment by Storm Reid, who kicked off her year by starring in Screen Gems’ thriller Missing.
Warner Bros has done a fine job staking a claim to the first weekend post-Labor Day, knowing that with schools back in session, a horror movie can get a lot of the teen and older kids showing up on Thursday and Friday night, and this continues its tradition of a R-rated release. It’s hard to imagine that this sequel can open as big as the original The Nun, especially considering that 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home and 2021’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opened lower than their predecessors. At least for the latter, we can offer the caveat that it was released mere months after
The Nun II should win the weekend fairly easy with somewhere in the $30 to 35 million range, although we’ll have to see how well it’s received if it’s going to join other movies in the “Conjuringverse” to make $100 million domestic. (These movies generally tend to do well internationally, as well.)
Opening in a whopping 3,200 theaters is Nia Vardalos’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, which is pretty self-explanatory, except this installment is being released by Focus Features, unlike 2016’s sequel to the indie blockbuster, which was released by Universal to an opening weekend of $17.9 million on its way to $92 million globally.
Seven years might not seem like a lot of time for a third movie, but the sequel was so poorly-received with such bad reviews and poor audience reception, one wonders who thought it would be a good idea to make a third movie.
Like The Nun II, this sequel won’t be screened for most critics until Weds night, as to keep horrid reviews from completely tanking it. Even with overwhelmingly positive reviews, Vardalos’ Greek ship has probably sailed, and it’s hard to imagine this opening with more than $10 million.
Few will be aware of the latest Telugu action-thriller, Jawan, starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who last starred in the January release, Pathaan, also released in North America by Yash Raj Films. That was released on a Weds. in late January in 695 theaters to make $9.5 million in its first five days, and $17.5 million domestically, a great showing for Yash Raj and a domestic Bollywood release. As seen by last year’s RRR, there continues to be a growing interest in action movies from India, and Jawan is getting a similarly high-profile release, probably in a similar number of theaters. It will be released on Thursday, although the amount of advance tickets already sold might be offset by the 2 hour 45 minute runtime, limiting the number of screenings per venue, especially with two more sequels released for previews on Thursday. Either way, don’t be too surprised if this breaks into the top 5 for the weekend with $5 to 7 million.
Edward Douglas has been writing about the box office for 21 years at places like ComingSoon.net, The Tracking Board, and many others, but mostly under the banner of “The Weekend Warrior.” He’s also a film critic with bylines at Film Journal, The New York Daily News, Den of Geek, and more.