THE WORDS, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana

Eagle Films

If the question is, what did you do this weekend? The answer is: A little bit of this, a little bit of that—and a lot of not going to the movies.

The typically sluggish post-summer box office got off to an extremely sluggish start.

The holdover horror flick The Possession reigned for a second weekend at No. 1, while new films from Bradley Cooper and Henry Cavill put up little, if any, fight.

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The Cooper-championed The Words was the more competitive of the two. It opened in third place with an estimated $5 million Friday-Sunday; since the plagiarism drama only cost $6 million to produce, the debut wasn't awful. (The movie's per-screen average of $1,785, however, was.)

There wasn't any apparent upside to The Cold Light of Day, the thriller starring future Man of Steel star Cavill and Bruce Willis. The $20 million thriller opened outside of the Top 10 with a meager $1.8 million from more than 1,500 theaters.

Performances across the board were weak. reported that Friday, which featured a slew of sub-$1 million grosses, might have been Hollywood's worst Friday in four years. Exhibitor Relations noted that overall weekend business was down 20 percent from the same weekend last year when moviegoers at least showed a collective passing interest in Gwyneth Paltrow's cough in Contagion.

Some sure signs that the summer (which actually wasn't so hot itself) was over:

The mighty (and finally gassed) Avengers took in less than $700 from each of its 1,200 screens.

The Dark Knight Rises didn't break $1 million on either Friday, or, per projections, Sunday. (On the upside, the film inched past E.T. for eighth place among the all-time domestic champs, with a total of $437.8 million.)

The weekend's biggest hit, theater for theater, was a documentary about Detroit, Detropia ($18,350 off one screen).

Help, however, appeared to be on the way.

"The box office will rebound next weekend," said editor Phil Contrino, citing the 3-D re-release of Finding Nemo and the launch of the latest Resident Evil movie.

Here's a complete look, meanwhile, at the weekend's top movies, per Friday-Sunday domestic estimates as reported by the studios and Exhibitor Relations:

  1. The Possession, $9.5 million
  2. Lawless, $6 million
  3. The Words, $5 million
  4. The Expendables 2, $4.8 million
  5. The Bourne Legacy, $4 million
  6. ParaNorman, $3.8 million
  7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green, $3.7 million
  8. The Campaign, $3.5 million
  9. The Dark Knight Rises, $3.3 million
  10. 2016: Obama's America, $3.28 million

(Originally published at 9:52 a.m. PT on Sept. 9, 2012.)

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