Hey, North America, today is supposed to be National Cinema Day — didn’t you get the memo?
The domestic box office is looking so slow this Labor Day weekend that a re-release of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” — a superhero film that first hit theaters almost nine months ago — may make a return to the top of the charts.
Though the third Tom Holland-led Spidey film debuted in theaters in December 2021, Sony is releasing the “More Fun Stuff Version” in 3,935 theaters over the holiday weekend, hoping to lure devoted fans back to the big screen with its promise of 11 minutes of unseen footage.
“No Way Home” added $1.75 million to its haul on Friday, projecting a four-day weekend gross of $6.1 million. That’s just a cherry on top for the Marvel Cinematic Universe entry, which has earned more than $800 million in North America and stands as the third-highest grossing domestic release of all-time.
A victory lap at No. 1 is hardly a guarantee for “Spider-Man” though. With no new releases really making a dent at the box office, the five or six films likely to top box office charts are all projecting weekend grosses within one or two million dollars of one another — enough wiggle room for things to change through Labor Day.
Shaking things up even further is the prospect of National Cinema Day, which will see the majority of theaters in North America sell tickets at a price around $3 on Saturday. 30,000 or so screens of the region’s 40,700 total are participating in the event, organized by the Cinema Foundation, a non-profit branch of the National Association of Theatre Owners. How this impacts box office performances remains to be seen, though it’s easy to imagine grosses will be a bit depressed by the heavy discount.
Theaters are hoping National Cinema Day can drum up foot traffic and concessions business, while also sparking excitement for the fall slate of releases. It’s the first North American moviegoing-discount event on this large of a scale, with organizers reportedly calling the initiative a trial for what could become an annual occurrence.
“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.,” starring Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall marks the only new wide release for the weekend. The Focus Features and Monkeypaw Productions release earned $430,000 from 1,879 theaters on Friday, landing outside the top 10 on box office charts.
The film debuted simultaneously on NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock, which likely diverted some potential moviegoers to their couches. But perhaps day-and-date wasn’t the wrong decision in this case, as the favorably reviewed movie wasn’t received as warmly by audiences; the megachurch satire was met with a lowly “C-” grade through research firm Cinema Score, indicating a somewhat negative response from general ticketbuyers.
Sony’s “Bullet Train” is also vying for first place, projecting a $5.875 million gross over the four-day weekend. The Brad Pitt actioner should expand its domestic gross to $86.4 million through Sunday. With a fairly uncompetitive theatrical slate through September, “Bullet Train” may just end up crossing the $100 million mark in North America, which would mark a solid achievement for a studio release with no franchise ties.
Sony also has a third contender for first in “The Invitation.” The horror flick was last weekend’s champion, opening at No.1 with a lowly $6.8 million. For a film that was trashed by critics and met with a “C” Cinema Score grade, “The Invitation” is only projected to fall 23% in its second weekend, projecting a $5.2 million gross.
Warner Bros. is also in the mix with “DC League of Super-Pets.” The animated film earned $725,000 on Friday (down 33% from last weekend) and looks to draw in some families over the holiday weekend. “Super Pets” should surpass an $80 million total domestic gross through Sunday.
Finally, how bananas would it be to see “Top Gun: Maverick” return to the top of the box office in its 16th weekend of release? The prospect is far from out of the question. The Paramount release is projecting a mere 5% tumble from last weekend’s three-day frame, with Labor Day ticket sales then adding a boost on top of that. “Maverick” should expand its domestic gross to $699 million through the weekend — just a stone’s throw from passing Marvel’s “Black Panther” ($700 million) and cracking into the North American box office’s all-time top five earners.