National Cinema Day Was A Success But The Labor Day Box Office Was Still Very Bleak

It was another very bad weekend at the box office overall, despite the fact that Saturday brought moviegoers out in droves for the first ever National Cinema Day. The holiday, which was cooked up in part by the National Association of Theater Owners in conjunction with movie studios and exhibitors, offered $3 movie tickets with just about no restrictions across the country. By every measure it was a huge success, with 8.1 million tickets sold. That meant a whole lot of foot traffic to theaters that have been suffering for several weeks — like the previous weekend, when "The Invitation" topped the charts in a downright dreary outcome.

Unfortunately, those $3 tickets didn't result in a great deal of actual money being made, and the event was but one day in a full two months of absolute wasteland that theater chains are dealing with right now, with no big new releases to keep people interested. Case in point, Sony's re-release of "Spider-Man: No Way Home" came out on top this Labor Day weekend with a mere $6 million haul. Yes, on a holiday weekend the number one movie in the country made just $6 million, and it was a movie that had already made nearly $2 billion between the end of 2021 and throughout the first chunk of 2022. It's bad and it won't get better for a while. Let's dig into the numbers, shall we?

No Way Home beats Top Gun: Maverick in a box office pillow fight

Heading into the weekend, nobody was sure whether or not it would be the "More Fun Stuff Version" of "No Way Home" that includes an additional 11 minutes of footage, or "Top Gun: Maverick" in its (checks notes) 15th week of release that would top the charts over the Labor Day holiday. Tom Cruise had to settle for the silver medal as the sequel to the '80s classic made $5.5 million through Sunday, according to Box Office Mojo. "Maverick" has now crossed $700 million domestic, representing a major milestone. It will pass "Black Panther" any day now to enter the all-time top five domestic chart, just behind "Avatar" ($760 million).

The bigger problem here is that our top two earners for the weekend were very old blockbusters that have already made a bunch of money. The number three movie was "DC League of Super-Pets" with $5.45 million, which narrowly beat "Bullet Train" at $5.4 million — again, movies that have been out for weeks at this point. The only good news here is that "Bullet Train" is nearing $200 million worldwide, meaning that the $90 million action flick may not be a disaster for Sony.

This all comes as moviegoers have complete confidence in returning to theaters. It's not like 2021 when uncertainty still loomed. Saturday proved people are more than happy to go to the movies, they just need a reason. To that end, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" set a Labor Day Weekend record a year ago with a $75 million opening, and $94 million counting the Monday holiday. Why was 2022 left as a barren wasteland? Hollywood is, for whatever reason, only hurting itself right now. Theaters need more desirable movies and it is going to feel like a long stretch until "Black Adam" arrives in October.

Jaws returns to the top ten

In other not depressing news, Steven Spielberg's all-time classic "Jaws" returned to theaters over the weekend — and in 3D for the first time ever. Playing on over 1,200 screens, the original blockbuster grossed $2.3 million over the weekend, rounding out the top ten for the holiday. It came in just behind "Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero," which earned $2.4 million in the number nine spot.

This highlights how enduring "Jaws" is nearly 50 years removed from its original release. One of Spielberg's finest hours came very early on in his career and it's clear that people are still interested in seeing that shark-centric terror play out cinematically in the company of others. It is also highlighting the issue at hand right now, with so little available in theaters to bring out the average moviegoer en masse. "Shang-Chi" succeeded in this same window last year, and that was preceded by the successful "Candyman" reboot. Hits like that are sorely lacking right now.

And the rest...

In more bad news, director George Miller's latest "Three Thousand Years of Longing" flat-out tanked, falling all the way to number 13 on the charts with just $1.5 million in its second weekend of release. The film has earned less than $7 million worldwide against a $60 million budget. "Three Thousand Years Of Longing wasn't even supposed to open as wide as it did but theaters are so desperate for new movies right now that United Artists was able to expand the release.

The only other new release this weekend was "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul." which debuted at number 14 with just $1.4 million. Given its somewhat limited appeal, lackluster marketing campaign, and simultaneous streaming release on Peacock, it was hard to expect anything more. In other news further down the charts, "Jurassic World Dominion" added just $455,000 domestic but is now just a little more than $5 million away from crossing the $1 billion mark globally. It may limp across the finish line, but it should get there.

Last week's winner "The Invitation" held decently, coming in at number five and taking in $4.7 million for a drop of just over 30%. At $18.2 million worldwide it's a long way from being a hit, but against a small $10 million budget, it could get there. In the number six spot was the "Idris Elba fights a big lion movie," aka "Beast," which added $3.6 million in its third weekend. At $46.4 million worldwide, it still has a long way to go to justify that $36 million budget. That's a real shame too because, for my money, this one was a blast and worth the price of admission.

The rest of the top ten was filled out but "Minions: The Rise of Gru" at number eight with $3.1 million and "Thor: Love and Thunder" with $2.4 million. This will likely be its last weekend in the top ten as the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure debuts on Disney+ Thursday for Disney+ Day.