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The Expendables 4,” an action-thriller starring Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham, misfired in its box office debut, tumbling to a franchise-low $8.3 million.

It landed in ever-so-slightly second place behind “The Nun,” which collected $8.4 million in its third weekend. These ticket sales resulted in the lowest-grossing box office weekend of the year as not a single film managed to clear $10 million.

Despite the abysmal results, there are reasons to be more optimistic about the future of theatrical. Studios may be close to a deal with the writers on strike, and there’s hope that means a similar agreement could be looming or the actors union as well. This would give stars the ability to promote their upcoming films, which in turn could goose box office returns. The Game Stop stock-inspired “Dumb Money” and Kenneth Branagh’s murder mystery “A Haunting in Venice,” both of which have ensembles filled with famous faces, have suffered because the A-list casts weren’t allowed to talk about or promote their work during the SAG-AFTRA strike.

Heading into the weekend, the Lionsgate and Millenium “Expendables” fourquel was expected to open to $15 million from 3,400 North American theaters. Instead, audiences felt the film was, well, expendable. Opening weekend figures weren’t anywhere close to its series predecessors, which range from 2014’s “Expendables 3” with $15.8 million, 2012 sequel with $28.5 million and 2010’s original “Expendables” with $34.8 million.

“The last two ‘Expendables’ have dropped sharply from the previous episodes, and the weekend figure is below average for the genre,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research Critics. “Reviews are poor and audience ratings are dull.”

Though the “Expendables” series has declined in popularity at the domestic box office (the original ended up with $103 million in North America, while the most recent tapped out with a paltry $39 million), these films have been much bigger draws with international audiences. All three installments have earned at least $200 million globally. The fourth installment cost $100 million to produce, roughly the same as its predecessors. Scott Waugh directed “The Expendables 4,” which sees the teflon operatives attempting to stop a terrorist group that threatens to ignite a conflict between Russia and the United States.

“The movie was not cheap to make,” Gross adds. “While ancillary income should be strong, it appears the film will have a hard time getting to profitability after marketing and distribution costs.”

Elsewhere, it was a quiet weekend at the box office as “A Haunting in Venice,” “The Equalizer 3″ and “Barbie” continue to round out domestic charts.

“The Nun II” has been a lone bright spot in September as the supernatural sequel nears $70 million at the domestic box office. It cost $38 million to produce and will be profitable for its backers, Warner Bros. and New Line.

“A Haunting in Venice” took third place with $6.3 million from 3,305 locations in its second weekend of release. So far, the Disney and 20th Century film has grossed $25.4 million in North America and $71.6 million globally.

At No. 4, “The Equalizer 3” added $4.7 million in its fourth weekend.

More to come…



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