Time Warner Releases Prisoners

Things get sleepy at the corner multiplex after Labor Day, but Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) Warner Bros. Pictures isn't letting September go without a fight.

Prisoners opens next weekend. 

The plot may seem like another Hollywood retread. Seeing how far a father will go to find his abducted child or avenge a crime on a child has been milled on the silver screen in Taken, Edge of Darkness, and Ransom. Sometimes it has turned into box-office gold. Taken, Taken 2, Ransom, and Live Free or Die Hard all raked in at least $130 million in domestic ticket sales during their theatrical runs. Mel Gibson's Edge of Darkness, also distributed by Time Warner, took in only $44 million in theaters.

Time Warner will also be competing against itself, as Warner Bros. is the studio behind next weekend's re-release of The Wizard of Oz on IMAX (NYSE: IMAX  ) in 3-D. It's unusual to see a studio release two films on the same weekend, but the 1939 classic is essentially limited to roughly 300 IMAX screens across the country. Prisoners will be screening across more than 3,000 traditional movie theaters. It's clear which movie will get the marketing muscle.

Source: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Time Warner will also be competing against the calendar. September isn't a big month for exhibitors, and movie studios know that. According to Box Office Mojo, 144 movies have raked in at least $50 million during their opening weekend. None opened in September. 

Despite the gritty premise of Prisoners -- in which two young girls go missing and one of the fathers hunts down the prime suspect -- Time Warner's hoping that star power will draw more sophisticated audiences. There are a whopping five Academy Award nominees in the cast, led by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. A sixth cast member has a Golden Globe nomination on her resume.

That may not be enough to break the drought of dry Septembers for multiplex operators, but you can't blame Time Warner for trying.

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