The Help Wins Weekend Box Office Over Reboots and Sequels

Last weekend’s box office heroes The Help and Rise of the Planet of the Apes were unfazed by an onslaught of new films at the North American box office this weekend. Lack of interest from moviegoers and the strong holdover duo spelled a quick death for the likes of Spy Kids 4, Conan The Barbarian, Fright Night and One Day. The top two films aside, it’s evident that the 2011 Summer Movie season is basically finished as witnessed by the steep 26% drop in top ten sales from last weekend.

After a strong debut, Disney/Dreamworks’ Southern drama The Help made the most of positive word-of-mouth from ticket buyers as it dropped a mere 22% this weekend to earn an estimated $20.4 million from 2,690 theaters. The added haul brings its impressive ten-day total to $71.8 million. The film took over the top spot at the box office last Monday and has stayed there ever since. Given its durability, the $100 million mark could be crossed by early next weekend. Given its popularity, the $35 million production could be looking at a final domestic take between $140-150 million.

Another late summer hit that is holding its own, Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, eased a moderate 41% in its third round to earn an estimated $16.3 million from 3,471 theaters. To date, Caesar and his crew have brought in a great $133.7 million and could be looking at a final domestic haul of $170-180 million, the latter which would put it right up there with the final domestic haul (pre-inflation) of Tim Burton’s 2001 remake of the 1968 original. The film has earned $122 million in overseas sales thus far.

Three underperforming wide debuts occupied slots three through six, each presented in higher-priced 3D. The Weinstein Company’s Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, the fourth film in the eight-year old family series directed by Robert Rodriguez, managed the best debut of the troubled 3D trio by landing in third place. But with a flat $12 million from 3,295 theaters, that is hardly a cause for celebration. After a summer season of having features in price-gouging 3D shoved down their throats, family audiences were only too happy to take a pass at the Spy Kids reboot. The 23% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes probably didn’t help matters much either.

The news wasn’t much better for the number four film in the country, the 2011 version of Conan the Barbarian starring Jason Momoa. The newest take on the Robert E. Howard iconic character originally played 29 years ago by Arnold Schwarzenegger met the blunt end of the viewer apathy sword by grossing a weak $10 million from 3,015 screens. Like Spy Kids, the Lionsgate release was savaged by critics on Rotten Tomatoes to the tune of 27%. The Marcus Nispel-directed feature was the 13th action film released this summer.

The third and final 3D debut was the remake of the 1985 horror comedy Fright Night, which stars Colin Farrell, David Tennant and Anton Yelchin. Reviews were on the positive side (74% on Rotten Tomatoes) for the Craig Gillespie-directed remake. However, with teens gearing up for school and another 3D horror film already in the marketplace (Final Destination 5), all the positive words from critics could not help the film drum up any more than $8.3 million from 3,114 theaters. Word to the wise who may be planning to release a horror film in August of next year: Halloween. Chances are your horror film will play better in a season that has more in common with thrills and chills than it does going to the beach.

Sixth place went to the Sony hit The Smurfs which earned $8 million in its fourth weekend to bring its total to the $117 million mark. Overseas, the film has amassed $211 million so far to bring its total to the $329 million mark. In seventh place was Warner’s Final Destination 5, which dropped 57% from last weekend to bring in $7.7 million while upping its total to the $32 million mark. A $45-50 million final box office destination is likely. Eighth place went to Sony’s action comedy 30 Minutes or Less, which collapsed by 53% from its opening last weekend to bring in an estimated $6.3 million and a ten-day total of $25.7 million. The Jesse Eisenberg flick could reach between $35-40 million in domestic sales.

The fourth and final wide release of the weekend landed with a loud thud in ninth place, the Focus Features romantic flick One Day. The Anne Hathaway-starrer could only scrape up $5.1 million from 1,719 theaters. Facing competition for female audiences from The Help, the Lone Scherfig (An Education)-directed also found major resistance in the form of harsh critical notices (27% on Rotten Tomatoes). Rounding out the top ten this weekend was Warner’s durable comedy hit Crazy, Stupid Love with $5 million in fourth week sales. The film’s total now stands at $65 million with a final total of $75 million possible.

For the final weekend of August, three new films will arrive on movie screens: the action flick Columbiana, the horror film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and the indie comedy Our Idiot Brother. In other words, watch for The Help to land at number one yet again next weekend as Hollywood sheds its late summer leftovers.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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