LOS ANGELES Horror flick "The Possession" seized U.S. and Canadian box offices with a surprising $21.3 million debut over the Labor Day weekend while family film "Oogieloves" took the unwelcome title of worst debut for a widely released movie.
"The Possession," a supernatural thriller about a young woman inhabited by a demon, beat Prohibition-era crime drama "Lawless." The second-place finisher took in $13.0 million from Friday through Monday, according to studio estimates.
"Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" pulled in just $445,000 through its first three days, a figure expected to rise to $602,000 through Monday. The three-day total ranked as the lowest debut for a film playing in at least 2,000 theaters, according to website Box Office Mojo.
Elsewhere, the documentary "2016: Obama's America" slipped to eighth place from last week's surprise seventh-place finish, and the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" crossed the rare $1 billion mark for global ticket sales. Walt Disney Co's "The Avengers" reached $1.5 billion.
For "Possession," the $21.3 million total from Friday through Monday ranked as the second-highest tally for a Labor Day weekend, behind only "Halloween" in 2007.
"Possession" tells the story of a young woman possessed by a demon known as a Dibbuk in ancient Yiddish folklore. Kyra Sedgwick and Madison Davenport star in the film, which Lions Gate Entertainment produced for around $15 million.
Going into the weekend, the studio had forecast four-day sales of up to $14 million. The Labor Day weekend release helped the film, said Richie Fay, distribution president for Lions Gate. Studios typically ignore that weekend because they figure families and students will be busy with back-to-school activities.
"Possession" showed that "along with buying those school supplies and getting backpacks for the kids, it's also a great time to get out and see a good horror film," Fay said.
"Lawless" stars Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke and Tom Hardy as bootlegging brothers in Virginia. Weekend sales hit the high end of expectations, said Erik Lomis, distribution president for The Weinstein Co, which bought the movie for $5 million.
Rounding out the top five, action movie "The Bourne Legacy" grossed $9.4 million through four days, and stop-motion family film "ParaNorman" earned $8.8 million.
"2016: Obama's America" ended the holiday weekend with $7.1 million. The conservative critique of President Barack Obama fell one spot to eighth place despite moving into about 600 more theaters. "We still had a good weekend for a little documentary without the big budgets of the studios," executive producer John Sullivan said.
Since its July release, the movie has pulled in $20.3 million, the fifth-best showing for a political documentary.
"Oogieloves" landed in 29th place. The film follows three brightly colored, puppet-like characters on a search for balloons for a friend's birthday party. It is designed to be interactive so parents and young children can sing along and dance, like a toddler version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," said producer Kenn Viselman, a toy mogul who worked as a producer for the "Teletubbies" TV show.
While disappointed with initial sales, Viselman said the film was meant to introduce the characters for future movies, TV shows and toys and yield a profitable new franchise. By that measure, negative headlines about the tiny box-office take will help, he said.
"Now that we have this dubious distinction, it arose the curiosity," he said, adding that a film sequel was in the works for either theaters or DVD. "I had expected it to take longer to get the characters recognized."
The weekend brought Hollywood's summer movie season to a close. North American (U.S. and Canadian) ticket sales from May through Labor Day reached $4.3 billion, a 3 percent drop from the same period last year, according to Hollywood.com.
For all of 2012, sales ran 4 percent ahead of 2011 at $7.6 billion.
Rocky Mountain Pictures distributed "2016." "Bourne Legacy" was released by Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures. "ParaNorman" was distributed by Universal's Focus Features. Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, released "Dark Knight Rises."
(Reporting By Lisa Richwine; Editing by Eric Beech and Paul Simao)