WINNER OF THE WEEK: Lionsgate. The indie studio has held the box office crown for four straight weeks, two with The Expendables 2 and now another two with The Possession. The exorcism tale lost 46 percent of last week's business and fell to an estimated $9.5 million, but in this beyond-dismal weekend, that was enough to stay on top. (It's earned a total of $33.3 million to date, more than covering its $14 million cost.) Meanwhile, Expendables held on in fourth place with an estimated $4.8 million, for a total of $75.4 million so far in North America, plus another $102.4 million overseas. Together, Possession and Expendables took in $14.3 million this weekend for Lionsgate, more than twice what any other studio earned. Thanks to a 2012 slate that includes these two hits, two Tyler Perry movies, and a little flick called The Hunger Games, Lionsgate has grossed a tidy $738 million domestically this year, which puts it in the same arena with the six major studios, running neck and neck with 20th Century Fox ($748 million) and well ahead of Paramount ($585 million).
LOSER OF THE WEEK: Everyone. Post-Labor Day weekend is typically the worst of the year, but this weekend was the worst in 11 years, since the weekend of September 21-23, 2001. Total North American box office that weekend was $59.7 million; this weekend's was just $63.3 million, according to estimates.
Not even the new releases could drum up much enthusiasm. The Words continued to challenge the notion that Bradley Cooper is a box office draw in any movie that doesn't find him waking up in a strange room after a drug binge. The film was a tough sell (a romantic thriller about plagiarism?), so it's no wonder that it grabbed only an estimated $5.0 million to debut in third place. (Rounding out the top five were Lawless, holding at Number Two with an estimated $6.0 million, and The Bourne Legacy, down one spot to Number Five on estimated earnings of $4.0 million.)
The Words fared far better than The Cold Light of Day, the Bruce Willis abduction thriller that Summit dumped in 1,511 theaters with almost no advertising after it had earned just $13 million overseas. Here, it made just an estimated $1.8 million to premiere in 13th place, just ahead of a reissue of Raiders of the Lost Ark that opened only on 267 IMAX screens and grossed an estimated $1.7 million. That's a per-screen average of $6,461 for the 31-year-old chestnut, a better average than that of any of the 13 current movies that preceded it on the chart.
THE RETURN OF BRUNO: Weep not for Bruce Willis. Just because Cold Light of Day tanked doesn't mean his career will suffer. In fact, he'll come out of this debacle completely unscathed. After all, he's also in the No. 4 movie this week, as well as the top indie hit of the summer (Moonrise Kingdom). We've never had to talk about a Bruce Willis comeback (unlike some of his Expendables 2 costars) because he's never left. The 57-year-old's career has a lot of hits and misses, but if you don't like one of his thrillers, you generally have to wait only a couple weeks until the next one. (Opening September 28th: Willis' time-travel noir, Looper.) No matter how his movies fare, he seems to take things in stride and just move on to the next challenge. Which, of course, is the source of his on-screen appeal. Next year, we'll see him in a fifth Die Hard and a second Red, and we'll continue to enjoy watching him take on whatever anyone can throw at him with his usual combination of sad-eyed world-weariness and wry humor, for as long as he feels like putting himself out there.