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Weekend Box Office: Apes Dominate For Second Week as The Help Rises

by Anthony D'Alessandro
August 14, 2011 5:05 AM
4 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood

August summer box office showed some breadth, as studios battled for weekend dominance with pictures appealing to a range of audience segments, from women (The Help) to tweens (Glee) and holdover prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, reports Anthony D'Alessandro.

Neither a 3-D bridge disaster, Gleek, nor bomb-strapped buffoon could topple Fox's Rise of the Planet of the Apes in its second session as it grossed $27.5 million. Meanwhile, Disney/DreamWorks' critically acclaimed chick-lit feature The Help posed a formidable foe, taking second place with $25.5 million from Friday to Sunday.

More details and the Top Ten Box Office Chart are below.

Aside from The Help, most of the frame's wide entries missed their projections, as Warner Bros./New Line's Final Destination 5 sputtered at $18.4 million (it was expected to be as high as $20-$25 million), Sony/Media Rights Capital's low-end comedy 30 Minutes or Less barely lit $13 million (expectations were at $15 million) and Fox's Glee: The 3D Concert Movie sang so far off key at $5.7 million, it landed outside the top 10.

Welcome to August: a boom or bust month, as the majors fiercely go toe-to-toe, as wide releases this month were 13, up from 12 last year. Another bloodbath comes next weekend as four films launch followed by another three the weekend of August 26-28.

Following Thor and Transformers 3, Apes' win reps the third time this summer that a film has held the No. 1 spot in its second weekend. It comes as no surprise: smart sci-fi films have legged out before in August, and Apes at $104.9 million is outstripping the month's most recent champ District 9 ($115.6 million) in its second frame by 44%.

The Help sold itself. It's a solid best seller having sold 3 million-plus copies. Disney wisely unspooled the film in the middle of the week to capitalize on women's book club night and to get a head start on building word-of-mouth before a treacherous weekend. Critics boosted the movie to 73% fresh. With $35.4 million since Wednesday, the period drama has already bested the first five day cumes of previous August chick lit titles Eat Pray Love ($29.5 million, final domestic $80.6 million) and Julie & Julia ($25.9 million, $94.1 million), and its A+ Cinemascore is going to propel it even more in the end. It's been a while since DreamWorks unspooled a hot adult drama with whispers of award potential this early in the season. It's reminiscent of the days when DreamWorks unspooled its critically acclaimed fare in the early fall, i.e. American Beauty and Almost Famous. Under Paramount, most of the label's award contenders, i.e. Revolutionary Road and Up in the Air, typically bowed in December.

"You expect that this film will play well to the people that read the book, but as it turns out, it's playing really well everywhere -- to upscale, the heartland and urban audiences equally," gushed Disney distribution exec VP Dave Hollis. "You can gauge the emotional success of the film by how many people stick around through the credits."

60% of The Help audience was over 35 with women marking the majority at 74%. Hollis points out that more men have gradually attended the film since Wednesday evident in the fact that 84% of the crowd were couples.

3-D goosed the fourth chapter of Final Destination back in 2009, making it the series' highest opener with $27.4 million. To the credit of Warner Bros. and New Line, they had their hearts in the right place with this installment. They delivered quality 3-D by hiring Steve Quale, the second unit director of Avatar. 3-D repped 75% of the fifth chapter's gross, which the studio claims is the highest share for any 3-D release this summer (the format has historically done well for the horror genre). In a less crowded market, Final Destination 5 might have had more traction. It's a horror-thriller, so its audience isn't as broad as a Fast Five, not to mention depreciating grosses are common for the genre. Among all openings in the franchise, Final Destination 5 is the third best. It score a B+ Cinemascore, A- overall for its under-25 demo, which repped 50% of attendees, a promising indicator of midweek business before kids start heading back to school in the next week before Disney/DreamWorks' Fright Night reboot arrives. Males outweighed females, 54% to 46%.

Controversy couldn't explode 30 Minutes to better numbers -- nor did it crimp its business. This film failed to ignite audiences because it just wasn't funny enough, evident in its B Cinemascore. Sony is known for spotlighting these wonderful R-rated comedies in August, i.e. Superbad and The Pineapple Express. And like those successes, what 30 Minutes needed was Judd Apatow behind the helm as producer; a guy with a sharp sense when it comes to melting humanizing comedy with slapstick. The irony is that Red Hour, who produced the film, succeeded in the same frame three years ago with Tropic Thunder ($25.8 million three-day, $111 million domestic). Hence, there's an appetite for anarchistic action comedies in August. But Tropic Thunder was a bigger spectacle in terms of its all-star talent, 180-degree riotious Tom Cruise-Robert Downey Jr. performances and its $92 million budget of explosions.

30 Minutes is the fifth cheapie (under $40 million) R-rated comedy of the summer -- and it's fair to say that audiences are sated. Critics, who detonated 30 Minutes at 44% rotten were surprised at how short the film was -- but that didn't make it any funnier. Guys repped 58% at 30 Minutes auditoriums; 69% were under 25. The under-18 bunch, who caught a screening without their parents knowing, loved it with an A Cinemascore.

If the 18 bunch did actually duck into see 30 Minutes, they sure as heck didn't buy tickets to Glee. With close to a $10 million budget, this film was nothing more than easy money for Fox. They weren't looking to reinvent the 3-D concert movie (leave that to Lady Gaga) and they already executed this type of quickie TV spin-off in 2003 with the American Idol feature From Justin to Kelly which also ate dirt at the B.O. with a $4.9 million gross off a $12 million budget. This is the best place on the calendar for Glee -- about a month out before its third season premiere on September 20 while Gleeks are still on summer vacation. As far as its A+ Cinemascore and why more people didn't go? It's no head scratcher: Only the Gleeks went. If non-Gleeks were to go out of their way to pay the 3-D premium upcharge -- that would be miraculous.

The Top Ten Weekend Box Office Chart:


1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Fox) $27.5 million down 50% in its second weekend at 3,691 theaters. $7,451 theater average. Domestic total: $104.9 million.
2. The Help (Disney/DreamWorks) $25.5 million in its first weekend at 2,534 theaters. $10,073 theater average. Domestic total: $35.4 million in its first five days.
3. Final Destination 5 (Warner Bros./New Line) $18.4 million in its first weekend at 3,155 theaters. $5,832 theater average. Domestic total: $18.4 million.
4. Smurfs (Sony) $13.5 million down 35% in its third weekend at 3,427 theaters. $3,939 theater average. Domestic total: $101.5 million.
5. 30 Minutes or Less (Sony) $13 million in its first weekend at 2,888 theaters. $4,501 theater average. Domestic total: $13 million.
6. Cowboys and Aliens (Universal/DreamWorks-Relativity) $7.6 million down 52% in its third weekend at 3,310 theaters. $2,300 theater average. Domestic total: $81.5 million.
7. Captain America: The First Avenger (Par) $7.1 million down 45% in its fourth weekend at 2,835 theaters. $2,513 theater average. Domestic total: $156.9 million.
8. Crazy, Stupid, Love (Warner Bros.) $6.9 million down 42% in its third weekend at 2,635 theaters. $2,630 theater average. Domestic total: $55.4 million.
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Warner Bros.) $6.875 million down 45% in its fifth weekend at 2,414 theaters. $2,848 theater average. Domestic total: $357 million.
10. The Change-Up (Universal) $6.2 million down 54% in its second weekend at 2,913 theaters. $2,135 theater average. Domestic total: $25.8 million.

4 Comments

  • mary | August 15, 2011 2:00 AMReply

    I'm very grateful for your praise, Anthony. Wihout the insights from your intelligent articles, my comments would be much worse. :p

  • Anthony | August 14, 2011 10:40 AMReply

    Always enjoy your comments Mary. I understand that there might have been hubbub between Paramount and DreamWorks on "Up in the Air" but in the end, there was acknowledgement in press notes, logos in front of the film that it was a co-prod from DW Studios- which is still DreamWorks. http://www.theupintheairmovie.com/#/aboutTheFilm/productionNotes

    Also, in terms of African Americans' reception toward the "The Help" -- depends who you ask. Disney reached out to groups and generated positive word of mouth. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/09/business/la-fi-ct-help-marketing-20110809. Also the film played well in southern cities like Jackson, Dallas, Atlanta and Memphis.

  • January James | August 14, 2011 6:53 AMReply

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes is No. 1 once again. Armenian icon Andy Serkis is the undisputed star of the film and his artistic ability comes from his Armenian heritage.

    Some other Armenians icons and legends include Andre Agassi, Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Cher, Princess Diana (1/64 Armenian), Atom Egoyan, Arshile Gorky, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Kirk Kerkorian, Mike Connors, William Saroyan, Seymour Skinner (Armen Tamzarian), System of a Down, The Kardashians, Steven Zaillian, Michael Vartan, Gregory Peck, Dita Von Teese, Ken Davitian, David Hedison, David Dickinson, Simon Abkarian, the Hughes brothers (Albert and Allen).

  • mary | August 14, 2011 5:47 AMReply

    Officially, "Up in the Air" isn't a DreamWorks film; DreamWorks developed "Up in the Air", but then Paramount totally took over this film and didn't give any credit to DreamWorks.
    http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/2009/12/22/spielberg_fighting_mad_about_dw_studios/

    Rival studios told Deadline that the marketing budget of "The Help" is more than the film's production budget ($25 million). Still "The Help" will definitely be a financial success for DreamWorks and Disney.
    Some folks predict that "The Help" will become No.1 box office winner in the next weekend, and I think it is definitely possible. However, "The Help" was disapproved by The Association of Black Women Historians; it may hurt this film's Oscar chance.
    http://www.movieline.com/2011/08/association-of-black-women-historians-object-to-the-help-in-open-letter.php

    "30 Minutes or Less" proved again that R-rated comedies generally needs strong reviews to do well at box office. Therefore, we may not see Hollywood major studios to produce more R-rated comedies in the future (studios focus on producing films that can perform well at box office without critical support).

    That said, another R-rated comedy "Our idiot Brother" could become another surprise box office hit if the film can receive mostly positive reviews ("Our idiot Brother" has a very marketable premise and very appealing cast) . Other late-August wide openers look like dumps for me.

    Happy to see that "Senna" opens strongly. However, I am surprised that Universal is releasing "Senna" through Producers Distribution Agency.... Why Universal didn't let Focus Features to handle the US theatrical release of "Senna"?.

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