For a second straight weekend there was a surprise winner at the box office as Focus' The American was able to top Fox's Machete in a fairly close three-way race for first that also included the second weekend performance of Sony's Takers.
The modestly budgeted George Clooney vehicle opened with an estimated $16.40 million over the four-day holiday frame and has grossed $19.54 million through its first six days of release. As is typically the case for films opening the Wednesday before Labor Day weekend, The American didn't make much noise on Wednesday and Thursday, but picked up nicely once the weekend arrived. The American is currently running 54 percent stronger than The Constant Gardener, which was released by Focus on the Wednesday before Labor Day back in 2005 (albeit in roughly half as many locations). The American grossed $13.13 million over the three-day frame, which was slightly higher than the $10 million to $13 million range that Clooney's films typically open within.
Although it still opened towards the lower end of pre-release expectations, Machete had to settle for second place over the holiday weekend with an estimated $14.00 million. The modestly budgeted Robert Rodriguez directed action film was the slight favorite to win the weekend, especially with The American opening on a Wednesday. But at the end of the day, the combination of the film's grindhouse style and its dealing with the current immigration debate appears to have hurt it somewhat in its box office battle against The American. Machete is currently running 9 percent stronger than Grindhouse, which opened well below expectations back in 2007 and marked the launching pad for Machete via one of its fake trailers.
Takers, last weekend's surprise winner, experienced a respectable second weekend hold. The ensemble crime drama from Screen Gems grossed an estimated $13.50 million over the holiday frame, which was down 34 percent from last weekend's three-day debut and placed the film in third. With the exception of last Wednesday, Takers has held up nicely over the past week and has now grossed $39.95 million through eleven days of release. Takers marks the end of a strong and consistent summer season for Sony. The studio will look to keep that momentum going into the fall season with the unleashing of fellow Screen Gems releases Resident Evil: Afterlife and Easy A over each of the next two weekends.
After a strong start last weekend, Lionsgate's The Last Exorcism took a nosedive in its second weekend of release. The PG-13 horror film finished in fourth with an estimated $8.78 million over the holiday frame. Even with an extra day, The Last Exorcism was down 57 percent from last weekend. The large decline came as no surprise after the film started to lose major momentum as early as its second day of release last week. With that said, The Last Exorcism has still grossed a very solid $33.55 million through eleven days of release.
Opening in a soft fifth place was Warner's Going the Distance. Despite receiving the weekend's widest launch, the R-rated romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long debuted with only $8.61 million in its first four days. That was below its already modest expectations and was 39 percent softer than the $14.06 million four-day start of All About Steve, which opened over Labor Day weekend last year. Given its weak per-location average this weekend, it's unlikely that Going the Distance will hold up well going forward.