Weekend Box Office (September 2 - 5, 2011)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Showing incredible longevity, The Help was the most popular film in North America for the third weekend in a row beating out a trio of new releases to top the long Friday-to-Monday Labor Day holiday frame. The spy drama The Debt debuted to impressive results in second place while the critically-panned thrillers Apollo 18 and Shark Night 3D followed with modest openings. Older adults came out to multiplexes in larger numbers than teens as overall ticket sales were about even with the holiday from the past two years.

Still pulling in ticket buyers in its fourth weekend, The Help led the way with $19.9M over the long four-day span, according to final studio figures, with the Friday-to-Sunday portion actually seeing a slight uptick from last weekend. The Mississippi-set drama became the first film since Inception to rank number one for three weekends. Averaging a strong $6,993 over four days, the Disney release boosted its stellar cume to $124.3M on its way to what should be at least $160M. The Help continues to benefit from solid buzz and audience expansion reaching people now who had no interest on opening weekend. It has now surpassed Green Lantern and is on course to outgross bigger summer action films like X-Men: First Class and Super 8.

Leading the way among new titles was the older-skewing espionage thriller The Debt which bowed to $12.9M over the Friday-to-Monday period. The Focus release averaged a healthy $7,038 from only 1,826 locations as it played to a more sophisticated adult crowd. Reviews were good for the Helen Mirren film and with its Wednesday start the six-day gross was $14.8M. The performance was especially impressive given how well The Help (with 1,000 extra theaters) continues to do with adult women and the fact that films opening on Labor Day weekend rarely average more than $6,000 over four days. A healthy run ahead for The Debt could result.

The new outer space thriller Apollo 18 claimed third with a $10.7M debut from a very wide 3,328 theaters resulting in an awful $3,217 four-day average. The Weinstein Co. release tried to intrigue sci-fi audiences with its found-footage format but few turned out. Those that did rejected what they saw as the CinemaScore grade came in as a dismal D. Grosses will evaporate quickly. Luckily for the distributor, Apollo carried a tiny $5M production budget.

Fox's summer hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes collected $10.3M raising the impressive sum to $162.6M.

Opening behind in fifth place was the fourth horror film in as many weeks, Shark Night 3D with $10.1M. Released by Relativity Media, the PG-13 pic averaged a weak $3,609 from 2,806 despite including 3D surcharges. It was the third fright flick in a row that failed to break double digit millions on its Friday-to-Sunday opening weekend following the $8.5M of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and the $7.7M of Fright Night which was in 3D. Shark scared up $8.4M over three days. Produced for roughly $25M, Shark Night scored a disappointing C grade from CinemaScore. Females made up 52% of the audience, 57% was under 25, and a very high 56% was Latino. Although there were 300+ runs in 2D, Shark Night truly pushed the extra dimensional thrills as a very high 86% of the sales came from 3D screens.

The Zoe Saldana revenge thriller Colombiana dropped a reasonable amount in its second weekend to $9.6M pushing the 11 day total to $24.1M for Sony. With a four-day take that matched its three-day debut, the raunchy comedy Our Idiot Brother from The Weinstein Co. grossed $7M. The Paul Rudd pic has taken in a modest $17.3M in 11 days. The distributor's Spy Kids: All the Time in the World collected $6.8M in its third round boosting the total to $31.2M.

Suffering the largest decline in the top ten was the horror entry Don't Be Afraid of the Dark which fell to $6.4M over four days. FilmDistrict has scared up $17.8M to date and the three-day decline was 39%. The Smurfs took in $5.7M for a mighty $133.7M domestic haul. The Sony smash continues to shine overseas with its international total rising to $295.8M and the global gross hitting a sturdy $428M.

Opening with the top per-theater average of the weekend was the Bollywood action film Bodyguard with $1.1M over four days from 88 locations for a $11,945 average. The Reliance Big Pictures release has grossed $1.4M since its Wednesday launch.

With the summer movie season just about over, sequels pulled in the most business dominating the marketplace. The top five summer films were: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($375.6M), Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($350.5M), The Hangover Part II ($254.4M), Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($240.8M), and Fast Five ($209.8M) which opened at the end of April but truly kicked off the busy moviegoing season. The top non-sequels were - Thor ($181M), Captain America ($172.3M), and Bridesmaids ($168.5M) which was one of the biggest surprise smashes of the season. The Help may eventually reach this same vicinity.

The top ten films grossed $99.4M which was up 6% from last year's four-day holiday when The American opened in the top spot with $16.7M; and up 3% from 2009's holiday when The Final Destination stayed at number one with $15.3M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter. For a DVD review of Do Dooni Chaar visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Contagion, Warrior, and Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star all open.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Sep 2 - 5 Aug 26 - 28 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 The Help $ 19,881,571 $ 14,536,118 36.8 2,843 4 $ 6,993 $ 124,272,124 Disney
2 The Debt 12,851,600 1,826 1 7,038 14,753,014 Focus
3 Apollo 18 10,705,556 3,328 1 3,217 10,705,556 Weinstein Co.
4 Rise of the Planet of the Apes 10,325,485 8,867,741 16.4 3,193 5 3,234 162,550,178 Fox
5 Shark Night 3D 10,126,458 2,806 1 3,609 10,126,458 Relativity
6 Colombiana 9,570,213 10,408,176 -8.1 2,614 2 3,661 24,132,335 Sony
7 Our Idiot Brother 7,038,249 7,011,631 0.4 2,555 2 2,755 17,273,593 Weinstein Co.
8 Spy Kids: All the Time in the World 6,801,885 6,007,180 13.2 3,007 3 2,262 31,201,190 Weinstein Co.
9 Don't Be Afraid of the Dark 6,382,227 8,525,728 -25.1 2,780 2 2,296 17,822,416 FilmDistrict
10 The Smurfs 5,724,093 4,754,766 20.4 2,706 6 2,115 133,676,705 Sony
11 Crazy, Stupid, Love 4,261,090 3,108,178 37.1 1,450 6 2,939 75,464,794 Warner Bros.
12 Harry Potter / Deathy Hallows Part 2 3,401,110 2,564,370 32.6 1,092 8 3,115 375,552,093 Warner Bros.
13 Captain America 2,573,586 2,248,438 14.5 1,050 7 2,451 172,272,760 Paramount
14 Cowboys & Aliens 2,500,535 2,377,475 5.2 1,185 6 2,110 96,881,690 Universal
15 30 Minutes or Less 2,303,738 2,687,165 -14.3 1,355 4 1,700 35,501,445 Sony
16 Conan the Barbarian 2,004,585 3,185,094 -37.1 1,722 3 1,164 20,222,175 Lionsgate
17 Final Destination 5 1,842,163 2,555,039 -27.9 1,226 4 1,503 40,887,561 Warner Bros.
18 Cars 2 1,777,989 234,298 658.9 2,043 11 870 189,256,895 Disney
19 One Day 1,721,604 2,516,061 -31.6 1,187 3 1,450 12,699,139 Focus
20 Fright Night 1,582,230 3,103,227 -49.0 1,468 3 1,078 17,344,365 Disney
Top 5 $ 63,890,670 $ 49,349,394 29.5
Top 10 99,407,337 69,507,839 43.0
Top 20 123,375,967 87,681,920 40.7
Top 20 vs. Labor Day 2010 123,375,967 121,530,095 1.5

Last Updated: September 6, 2011 at 4:45PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.