Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Weekend Box Office: 'The Help' Defeats Tepid Newcomers And Hurricane Season For Another Week At #1

by Gabe Toro
August 28, 2011 4:37 AM
10 Comments
  • |


Usually, studios will look for any possible reason to blame the weather for a film’s poor box office showing. Heat waves only mean audiences will seek the air conditioning of a theater, at least when something exciting is playing. And people will withstand non-apocalyptic snowstorms simply to get away from the cold while enjoying the blockbuster of their choice. But there aren’t a whole lot of options when almost half of a movie’s proposed locations are under siege by a vicious hurricane. Many large chains didn’t even bother to stay open during Irene’s reign, meaning that these quiet end-of-August releases could find no traction heading into the typically-comatose Labor Day weekend.

“The Help,” which has found traction with Midwestern audiences, saw no downturn in its fortunes from the storm, collecting $14.5 million and approaching $100 million domestic. Like it or not, this impressive late-summer run firmly plants “The Help” in the Oscar race, as it already has the public’s vote in a year short of mass-appeal award contenders. At least until “The Ides Of March” breaks box office records, or the critics stumble over themselves praising “Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.”

Leading a weak pack of newcomers, the Luc Besson-produced “Colombiana” performed about as well as you'd expect from a secondhand actioner released at the end of August during a hurricane. Besson’s name still doesn’t carry the sort of weight bestowed by super producer names like Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson or Albert Pyun, though he’ll have another shot at the “Taken” audience next spring with “Lockout,” and then later with “Taken Again: The Re-Takening.” “Colombiana” carried no appeal beyond “generic actioner” as the trailer essentially spelled the premise as “You Know, It’s That Sort Of Thing.” Expect a strong ancillary life from undemanding customers who, you know, don’t want to stress over things that much.

The anecdotal answer to the C- Cinemascore for “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” is that audiences generally don’t react to genuinely scary movies, which is why the hermetic funhouse appeal of the “Saw” films allowed that franchise to persevere. The goal of any sharp horror film is to produce a sense of dread and unease in its audience, and it’s this sort of response that turns off the fair-weather filmgoers, keeping the genre in the ghetto. “Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” was going for low-fi, old-school haunted house frights, but a vague advertising campaign and a bad release date suggests a lot of goreheads stayed home, and those that did show up were perplexed by the old-school approach. In other words, no one should have expected a high Cinemascore or gross, though it’s unfortunate that the film should be released on a weekend where it was impossible to find publicity.

The simians stayed in the picture, as “Rise Of The Planet of The Apes” capped weekend four right on the cusp of $150 million. The Foxbuster handily outdistanced the wide release of “Our Idiot Brother,” which The Weinstein Company essentially dumped at the end of summer, with an ad campaign that positioned the film as the slapstick comedy for no one. Even with the hurricane affecting this film moreso than the other big releases, this is a major marketing fumble for the Weinsteins. In kiddie fare, “Spy Kids” barely out-dueled “The Smurfs,” though it took a hefty weekend two tumble and, likely, kills the “Spy Kids” franchise on the big screen, though a Troublemaker Studios intern could easily end up shooting a direct-to-DVD spinoff in the near future. “The Smurfs” continues its unlikely run and should finish in the neighborhood of $140 million, though the global gross is borderline unfair. People really like this garbage, apparently.

Fright Night” continued to underperform, but it didn’t belly flop quite like “Conan The Barbarian,” however, as the sword-and-sandals actioner lost almost 70% of its tepid first weekend business. Marcus Nispel, we hope you find the accommodations of Director Jail to your liking. Ask if you need a pillow. Meanwhile, “Crazy Stupid Love” remains unkillable at the bottom of the top ten, and next weekend, it could be crossing $80 million domestic

A note about 3D: studios still haven’t figured out exactly how to spread out distribution of 3D screens for their releases. As such, when “Fright Night” and “Conan” laid an egg last weekend, studios made the decision to cut the amount of 2D engagements instead of the pricier screenings. As a result, it was a test to see whether the audiences willing to pay premium would overcompensate for the general lack of interest towards these titles. The hurricane likely makes this weekend inconclusive, but anecdotal evidence suggests 3D is for the birds.

It was a small-scale period for art house releases, particularly considering most of them were located on the coasts. “Circumstance” debuted to $43.5k on seven screens, while “Higher Ground” opened at three locations for a $22.9k take. While most of the other specialty releases were quiet, “Sarah’s Key” and “The Guard” continued to be the big winners, their $636k and $404k takes building their totals to $4 million and $1.8 million, respectively, while documentary "Senna" sported the weekend's best per-screen average of $8k for a $227k gross at twenty eight locations. Support your local arthouse theaters, boys and girls.

1. Bless You, White Savior (Disney) - $14.3 million ($97 mil.)
2. Colombiana (Sony) - $10.3 million
3. Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark (FilmDistrict) - $8.7 million
4. Rise Of The Damned Dirty Apes (Fox) - $8.7 million ($148 mil.)
5. Our Idiot Brother (Weinstein) - $6.6 million
6. Spy Kids: We Tempted Fate, Didn’t We? (Weinstein) - $5.7 million ($22 mil.)
7. The Smurfs (Sony) - $4.8 million ($126 mil.)
8. Conan The Equestrian (Lionsgate) - $3.1 million ($17 mil.)
9. Fear Evening (Disney) - $3 million ($14 mil.)
10. Sane, Educated Love (Warner Bros.) - $2.9 million ($70 mil.)

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

10 Comments

  • Koto | August 29, 2011 7:18 AMReply

    Your post is like your mirror on the Net.Interesting.

  • Christopher Bell | August 29, 2011 3:37 AMReply

    Damn dood, you're really going to continue being a jackass over this? Hurray for Internet Personalities, I guess.

  • redcup | August 29, 2011 2:52 AMReply

    Gabe, I didn't realize the tremendous emotional, physical, and spiritual sacrifice you were making with this column. C'mon, you're a guy that passes along second-hand information on a blog--not a martyr.

    Humble yourself or go get some basic facts straight.

  • Gabe Toro | August 29, 2011 2:10 AMReply

    Redcup, some of us are coping with a goddamned hurricane. Please write your own column with up-to-the-minute stats next time.

  • Fred | August 28, 2011 11:55 AMReply

    No one champions old school/slow burn horror (and other genres) more than I do, but "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" just didn't work, despite an effective trailer and film geek god Del Toro's name on the presenter line. I was hoping for it to deliver.

  • redcup | August 28, 2011 8:55 AMReply

    lol @ Gabe editing only some of his mistakes.

    Do better.

  • SR | August 28, 2011 8:33 AMReply

    Why do they keep spelling "Colombiana" with a U? Colombia is a country in South America not some district on the east coast.

  • Smokey | August 28, 2011 8:32 AMReply

    OUR IDIOT BROTHER opened on over 2,500 screens. That's not "semi-wide." That's wide.

  • redcup | August 28, 2011 5:59 AMReply

    P.S.

    Your mother site says Senna averaged $8,123, which would seem to void this statement: " the week’s highest per-screen average of $7k belonged to “Higher Ground"

    http://www.indiewire.com/article/box_office_hurricane_irene_pounds_specialty_market/

  • redcup | August 28, 2011 5:47 AMReply

    1. Bad release date for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark? Last year for the August 27-29 weekend the horror flick The Last Exorcism grossed $20,366,613.

    2. Don't get how Our Idiot Brother is a "semi-wide release". It opened in more theaters than The Help did in its opening weekend, more than did the last Paul Rudd-starring flick, How Do You Know, and just 60 less than Colombiana.

    3. Fright Night averaged $973 to to Conan's $1,028.

    3b. That's some liberal rounding for Conan's drop; 69% is much closer to say 70% than it is to 75%.

    4. Don't know how you expect CSL to make the $10 million plus it would need to reach $80 million by next weekend. In its last 7-day period (08/22-08/28), it made just over $5 million, and for the majority of the time it was playing in about 400 more theaters than it is now.

    5. Current wide release films with higher Metacritic scores than Sarah's Key's 58: Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, Crazy Stupid Love, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America, Fright Night, Friends with Benefits, The Help, and Our Idiot Brother.

Email Updates