'Don't Breathe' wins again as summer ends on strong
By Dave McNary
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - What had been a troubled U.S. summer box office is ending on an upbeat note as Sony's horror-thriller "Don't Breathe" dominated the four-day Labor Day weekend with $19.6 million and "Suicide Squad" crossed the $300 million mark.
With Monday marking the final day of the season, the summer box office is running about dead even with the last year's $4.48 billion, according to comScore. The 2016 season had 123 days, while last year's had an extra week.
The total is 5.5% behind the 2013 summer record of $4.75 billion. But it's also a remarkable turnaround from earlier this summer when a parade of underperforming tentpoles ("Alice Through the Looking Glass," "Independence Day: Resurgence") had put a damper on the season.
As of July 31, summer box office had totaled $3.33 billion and was down 4.8% from the 2015 box office at the same point. But one of the strongest Augusts on record, led by Warner Bros.' "Suicide Squad" and bolstered by "Don't Breathe," Sony's "Sausage Party" and STX's "Bad Moms," brought the business back to life, noted Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore.
"With only the second billion-dollar August in history (and one of the highest-grossing summer seasons on record), the fact is that going to see a movie in a movie theater remains a powerful draw and a tradition that transcends the reviews and weekly box office analysis," he said. "Audiences just want to go to the theater, grab some popcorn and sit in an air-conditioned communal environment and a watch a movie for a couple of hours; this remains a hard habit to break and a compelling outside-of-the-home option for entertainment."
The strong August portends a potentially powerful final four months of the year with Warner Bros. opening "Sully" this weekend amid critical raves for the Tom Hanks drama. Other upcoming titles with break-out possibilities: MGM-Sony's "The Magnificent Seven," Sony's "Inferno," Warner's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," Universal-Illumination's "Sing" and Disney's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and "Doctor Strange."
"Don't Breathe," which is playing at 3,051 sites, more than doubled the combined total of the two new entries -- Disney's period romance "The Light Between Oceans" with $5.9 million at 1,500 locations and Fox's "Morgan" with $2.4 million at 2,020 theaters. "Don't Breathe" has taken in $55 million in its first 11 days and is already in profit for Sony, thanks its price tag of less than $10 million.
The tale of a home-invasion burglary gone bad declined only 26% from its opening weekend with the extra day. It's the latest in a long line of strong performers in the horror category this summer, including two New Line entries -- "The Conjuring 2" and "Lights Out" -- Universal's "The Purge: Election Year" and Sony's "The Shallows." Continued...