Last weekend's box office looked like the beginning of a disastrous slump, but it's a golden age compared to this weekend.



None of the frame's three new wide releases cracked the top four. Overall, the weekend's total receipts came to an estimated $70.9 million. That's down 33 percent from last weekend's dismal $105.6 million. It also makes this weekend the worst box office Friday-to-Sunday in 14 months, since the Sept. 5-7 weekend of 2014, which was itself the worst box office weekend in six years.



Not that anyone was expecting much from new releases "Burnt," "Our Brand Is Crisis," and "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse." Even so, all three movies underperformed expectations. The best performer was Bradley Cooper's "Burnt," which was supposed to open between $6 and $8.5 million, but only mustered an estimated $5 million for a fifth place debut.



At least that made it into the top five. Sandra Bullock's "Our Brand Is Crisis" premiered in eighth place with an estimated $3.4 million, about half what it was predicted to earn, and marking the lowest-grossing wide-release debut in the A-lister's career. "Scout's Guide" opened at No. 12, with an estimated $1.8 million -- not even reaching the $2-to-$5 million window of its predicted grosses.



It's like Hollywood made the same mistakes as last week, only worse. Here's what went wrong:



1. Bad Movie Titles and Even Worse Marketing

You don't want your popcorn burnt, and you don't want to think of anything else burnt while you're at the movies, so why did The Weinstein Company think this title would work. Well, originally, the movie was called "Chef," but then Jon Favreau's "Chef" came out last year and was a hit, so they renamed the movie after Cooper's character, "Adam Jones," but that was too generic. So "Burnt" was still better than the movie's previous titles.



"Our Brand Is Crisis" was based on a documentary of the same name, but it's still not clear why Warner Bros. thought that title was good enough to keep. As for "Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse," it was originally titled "Scouts vs. Zombies," but maybe someone at Paramount realized that, as descriptive as that was, it sounded too much like the flop "Cowboys vs. Aliens," so they went with the more wryly funny title. Either way, it didn't work.



Overall, of course, these bad titles are symptomatic of weak marketing campaigns. Did you see a lot of ads for any of these movies? Cooper and Bullock went out and promoted them dutifully, but they couldn't overcome the other strikes these films had against them. Including...



2. Bad Reviews

"Crisis" may be an Oscar-baiting political satire, and "Scout's Guide" may be a cheapo teen horror comedy, but both got the same terrible 32 percent fresh rating among critics' opinions compiled at Rotten Tomatoes. ("Burnt" was close behind with 29 percent.) Since "Burnt" and "Crisis" were both aiming for older viewers who still take critics seriously, those notices had to hurt.



3. Poor Word-of-Mouth

Not that actual paying moviegoers liked these movies much better than critics did. "Crisis" got a horrible C+ grade at CInemaScore, but "Burnt" and "Scout's Guide" (pictured) didn't do much better, with a B- for each. So no one was strongly recommending any of these movies to friends.



4. Bad Release Strategies

Paramount did the same thing with "Scout's Guide" that it did with "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension" last week: it told exhibitors it would release the movie in theaters for just three weeks, but then it would share revenues from home viewing via video-on-demand with the theaters that booked the horror movie. And the same thing happened: the big theater chains, already wary of any move that shortens their exhibition window even further, refused to book the film.



As a result, "Scout's Guide" opened on just 1,509 screens, not far below the 1,656 that "Paranormal" was able to book last weekend. But that film was the sixth in a well-established franchise, and while it opened weakly, it still managed to earn $8.1 million, more than four times what the unknown-quantity "Scout's Guide" took in.



"Burnt" also went with a riskier strategy than it might have. Originally, it was scheduled for a limited release to build word-of-mouth before opening wide. Maybe TWC didn't want to compete with four new wide releases last week (plus "Steve Jobs," expanding into wide release last week). So at the last minute, it ditched the limited release plan and opened the film on 3,003 screens. The marketplace wasn't prepared, though maybe, given the ultimately poor reviews and word-of-mouth, there wasn't much else TWC could do.



5. Uninteresting Premises

"Burnt" was clearly too much like "Chef," and not just in its original title. "Crisis" is a political satire set in a non-English-speaking country, a surefire recipe for low grosses, as "Rock the Kasbah" proved last week.

A zombie comedy is actually not a terrible idea, but only a couple, "Zombieland" and "Warm Bodies," have made any money, and those both had recognizable-name actors in their casts.



6. Lack of Audience Appeal

Both "Burnt" and "Crisis" were aiming for older, primarily female audiences. But the older crowd has been especially choosy this fall. Very few of this season's supposedly grown-up movies have appealed to them, save for this weekend's repeat at No. 1, "The Martian," and "Bridge of Spies," which held strong for a third-place finish.



7. Bad Timing

Who knows, maybe "Burnt" and "Crisis" would have done better if they hadn't opened opposite each other, or while "Spies" was still strong. But there's also the Halloween factor. It's a traditionally discouraging holiday for the box office, since it means parties, trick-or-treating, and World Series games, all of which keep kids and adults away from the multiplex. Even horror films, like "Scout's Guide," "Paranormal," and Lionsgate's "The Last Witch Hunter," aren't necessarily draws at this time of year. (Although kiddie horror comedies "Goosebumps" and "Hotel Transylvania 2" are both still flourishing after several weeks of release.)



The traditional Halloween ghost-town effect at the multiplex is actually a good sign; it means the current slump could be over as soon as this coming weekend, especially with a new James Bond film ("Spectre") and "The Peanuts Movie" opening.



Still, if you wanted to give Hollywood suits a seasonal scare, this weekend's numbers probably gave a few of them heart attacks.