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Box office: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ rules lackluster Labor Day

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Zoe Saldana, the character Rocket Racoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, the character Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista in a scene from "Guardians Of The Galaxy." (The Associated Press)

“Guardians of the Galaxy” became the year’s highest grossing U.S. release this weekend, goosing an otherwise drab Labor Day box office reports Variety.

The Marvel film topped the domestic charts for the third time and benefited from crowds hoping to stretch out the waning days of summer, grossing $16.3 million over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday period and pushing its U.S. total to $274.6 million. It will likely end the four-day holiday with $21.2 million in stateside ticket sales from 3,462 locations.

That easily tops a pair of new wide releases, “November Man” and “As Above, So Below,” which brought in $7.7 million and $8.3 million respectively. Modest numbers for modest to low budgeted films with much to be modest about.

It also bested a trip down memory lane, to a different time, when blockbuster films could be based on — gasp! — an original idea, instead of just comic books, toy lines and the flotsam and jetsam of “brand pre-awareness.” Yes, “Ghostbusters.” A 30th anniversary re-release of the paranormal classic is expected to generate $1.6 million this weekend and $2 million for the four days in 784 locations, helping drum up enthusiasm for its forthcoming blu-ray release, which slides into stores on September 16th.

“November Man” will not fashion Pierce Brosnan into a graying avenging angel in the mode of Liam Neeson’s “Taken” films, but it represents a low-cost and minimal risk investment for Relativity Media, the studio that paid $3 million to release the $20 million production stateside. “November Man” skewed older, with 83% of its audience over the age of 25, and its opening crowd was 55% male.

The film finds the former James Bond playing a retired CIA agent who finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy when he gets pulled out of a pensioner’s life to protect a witness. The sixth place film will do a $9.8 million of business across 2,776 locations over the four-day holiday weekend.

The economics also favor “As Above, So Below,” despite its fifth place opening. Universal backed the low-budget horror film about treasure hunters in the Paris catacombs for a mere $5 million. It should draw $10.1 million over the four-day holiday in 2,640 venues. Its played equally well to women and men, with Hispanics making up the largest share of its audience with 34%. Sixty four percent of ticket buyers were under 25 years old.

Another holdover came in for a second place finish. Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” scored an estimated $11.7 million from 3,543 locations and is projected to finish the four day weekend with $15.5 million. That brings its total after four weeks to $166.2 million.

In limited release, Samuel Goldwyn Films and Lifetime Films’ “The Last Days of Robin Hood,” a sort of Errol Flynn in winter biopic with Kevin Kline, earned $9,577 in two theaters for a per screen average of $4,788. Sony Pictures Classics’ World War II drama “The Notebook” picked up $3,154 on two screens, with a per screen average of $1,577.

The end of summer can’t come soon enough for a business that’s been mired in the doldrums, down 15% from last year’s record-breaking popcorn season. There were simply too many blockbuster pretenders and too few “Guardians of the Galaxies” to go around this year.

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