Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach; you can feel it at the box office, the summer's out of reach.
But with a record tentpole season officially winding down in typically quiet Labor Day Weekend fashion, is finishing flat or better in 2011 out of reach for the domestic motion-picture business?
That's a key question to ask, as two PG-13-rated sci-fi/horror movies -- Weinstein Dimension's Apollo 18 and Relativity's Shark Night 3D -- hit the market. (Focus Features' adult drama The Debt premiered Thursday and is also entering its first weekend.)
Back to that big-picture box office question in a moment ... first, we'll deal with the weekend at hand.
Pre-release projections for the found-footage-themed Apollo 18 are in the mid-teens range, which puts the $5 million movie in position to end The Help's two-week perch atop the domestic box office.
Asked about Weinstein's entry into the potentially lucrative found-footage horror realm -- a sub-genre plundered to great success in past years by the likes of Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity -- Weinstein distribution president Kyle Davies parried: We found the footage in a crater in the Ukraine, he told TheWrap, tongue in cheek.
In reality, Russians were involved, but they're hardly new to Hollywood, with producer Timur Bekmambetov best known for directing 2008's Wanted.
Releasing Apollo 18 in 3,328 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, Davies says a gross in the $11 million - $14 million range will render the company very pleased with its minimal investment.
The film revolves around a secret, ill-fated NASA moon mission, undone by aliens. Weinstein won't let critics peruse the rocket before launching it, but tracking ain't that bad.
According to research firm NRG, the film is registering 86 percent total awareness among males 25 and older, with 42 percent conveying definite interest in seeing the movie and 11 percent calling it their first choice the next time they enter the multiplex.
Moviegoers looking for thrills and chills this weekend will also have the option of seeing Relativity's Shark Week 3D, which will be released in about 2,800 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, 2,500 of them offering it in gloriously hyped 3D.
Produced by Sierra Affinity on a budget said to be in the mid-$20 million range, Relativity acquired U.S. rights on essentially service-deal terms, agreeing to pay for prints and advertising. (E1 is handling Canadian distribution.)
Relativity is expecting a full-weekend gross of around $8 million - $10 million.
Also new this weekend, Focus' The Debt, an early contender to the awards race with a 76 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, opened Wednesday at 1,826 North American locations, grossing an estimated $970,532.
That performance didn't initially impress TheWrap's box-office analysis super-computer. A Focus representative later reminded our cyber-sentient that the studio's Constant Gardener debuted to a similar scenario in 2005 -- $929,829 at 1,387 locations on a pre-Labor Day Wednesday -- before grossing $82.5 million worldwide and garnering a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for co-star Rachel Weisz.
Analysts predict that The Debt -- which stars Helen Mirren as a woman dealing with her past as a Israeli Massad Nazi hunter -- will gross around $7 million - $8 million over the four-day holiday period.
Other box office highlights this weekend: Lionsgate will sneak-peak its mixed-martial-arts drama The Warrior in 550 locations, while its Latin market-targeted Pantelion label will release foreign film Saving Private Perez in 161 theaters.
Other limited openings will include Samuel Goldwyn's R-rated comedy A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy, starring Leslie Bibb, Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis.
Now, back to the multi-billion-dollar question: Can the domestic box office, which teetered past 20 percent into the red in the early part of the year, finish 2011 in the black after what was the top-grossing summer of all time?
Currently, the U.S. and Canadian market stands at around $7.2 billion, about 4.8 percent off a 2010 frame that ended up at $10.565 billion, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
Interestingly, the market is down only 1.2 percent from the same period in 2009, which ended up at an all-time high of $10.595 billion.
With sequels to such franchises as Alvin and the Chipmunks, Sherlock Holmes, Paranormal Activity and Twilight on the horizon, not to mention other big titles like DreamWorks Animation's Puss in Boots and DreamWorks' Steven Spielberg-directed War Horse, it's certainly not inconceivable that the domestic market could rattle off another $3.4 billion or more by the time the year is completed.
Of course, the year's annual right of Harry Potter box-office passage -- which occurred in November of last year -- is already on the books (it's closing in on a phenomenal $1.3 billion worldwide), so there will be no fourth-quarter Potter bonanza to look forward to.
Then again, if this year's box office is able to avoid some of the dead spots that plagued the latter half of 2010 -- such as the downer December that included such duds as The Tourist and How Do You Know? -- it should end up actually breaking the record.
In any event, we shall see, starting with a post-tentpole season home stretch run that begins this weekend.