The Reject ReportSome times, a Mexi-can’t. That’s what we’re seeing this Labor Day weekend as the strength of George Clooney and the marketing Focus Features pulled for The American were able to sweep Machete under the proverbial rug. It wasn’t a slaughtering, more like the quiet winning out most people who went to see The American this weekend were subjected to.

The way Focus sold the film, you would have expected a standard “hitman on his last assignment” actioner, but that’s not what the film delivered. That marketing and Clooney’s name were pretty much the only reason this art house found its way onto over 2800 screens. It’s the reason many who went to see it were wholly disappointed in what they were given (there was more than one “I’m asking for my money back” conversation overheard when I saw it this weekend, a declaration that probably wasn’t acted upon). It’s also the reason The American finds its way at the top of the charts this weekend, a weekend that had more than its share of disappointing openings.

One such disappointment was in Machete‘s opening numbers. While it had the stigma of Grindhouse hovering over it, there was still a lot going for the Robert Rodriguez film. Sadly, Danny Trejo wasn’t one of those things, and, even with a price tag of just $20 million, a Machete 2: Machete Kills! may not prove likely.

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long weren’t able to scrounge up much coinage, either, as Going the Distance fell far short of its expectations. Despite opening on the highest number of screens this weekend (180 more than The American), it wasn’t able to pull in even close to double digits. That’s even looking at the three-day forecast. Going the Distance is just one more example of Barrymore not able to open a film without the Charlie’s Angels moniker or Adam Sandler serving as a crutch.

Here is how the three-day weekend box office shaped up:

  1. The American – $16.3m NEW $19.5m since Wednesday
  2. Machete – $14m NEW
  3. Takers – $13.5m (-34.2%) $39.9m total
  4. The Last Exorcism – $8.7m (-56.9%) $33.5m total
  5. Going the Distance – $8.6m NEW
  6. The Expendables – $8.5m (-10.8%) $94m total
  7. The Other Guys – $6.6m (+5.8%) $108.1m total
  8. Eat Pray Love – $6.2m (-8.3%) $70.3m total
  9. Inception – $5.8m (+20%) $278.4m total
  10. Nanny McPhee Returns – $4.6m (-0.9%) $23.5m total

The top 10 this Labor Day weekend were able to pull in $92.8 million, down 3.2% from last year. The holiday weekend was expected to be down, but it could have been far worse consider how little Summer movie scraps were left to supplement the new releases. Last year’s Labor Day weekend was topped by The Final Destination and Inglourious Basterds, two Summer movies that were still coming off their opening weekend high. This year has no such films, and even The Expendables in its fourth week and The Other Guys in its fifth weren’t able to help the new films all that much.

Next weekend looks even more dismal, as the only new release is Resident Evil: Afterlife. It will likely be number one, as all the Resident Evil films have had decent openings. The 3-D element will help it, too.

We’ll be back on Thursday to run down how we see the weekend turning out.

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