There was no stopping The Help once again this weekend as the film grossed an estimated $19.0 million to remain in first place over the four-day Labor Day holiday frame. The Disney released DreamWorks film has now led the weekend box office for three consecutive weekends, which makes it the first film to do so since Inception accomplished that same feat last summer. The Help was up an impressive 31 percent over last weekend's three-day frame. In addition to continued strong word of mouth, The Help (and holdovers in general this weekend) were helped by last weekend's grosses being deflated by Hurricane Irene and from this weekend's weak line-up of new releases (even by lowly Labor Day weekend standards). The 27-day domestic total for The Help stands at $123.39 million.
Coming as a surprise, The Debt was this weekend's top new release with an estimated second place four-day take of $12.55 million. Since opening on Wednesday, the Focus release starring Helen Mirren has grossed a better than expected $14.45 million. There was a void for adult moviegoers who had already seen The Help this weekend and The Debt was able to fill it, despite very modest pre-release expectations and a launch of just 1,826 locations. A massive 76 percent of the film's audience was 35 and over, which helps explain the film's lack of an online presence. Compared to previous Wednesday before Labor Day releases from Focus, The Debt is running 27 percent behind the pace of last year's The American and 14 percent ahead of the pace of 2005's The Constant Gardener.
PG-13 genre films Apollo 18 and Shark Night 3D were neck and neck for third place this weekend. The Weinstein Company's Apollo 18 (with a four-day estimate of $10.7 million) is estimated to edge out Relativity Media's Shark Night 3D (with a four-day estimate of $10.3 million) by $400,000. Results for the two films in comparison to one another were mixed this weekend. On one hand, Shark Night 3D opened in line with its modest pre-release expectations, while Apollo 18 opened a bit below its higher expectations and opened in 522 more locations in the process. On the other hand, Apollo 18 carried the smaller price tag of the two films by a fairly substantial amount and didn't have the advantage of 3D surcharges that Shark Night 3D had. Look for both films to fade away quickly in the weeks ahead.
As mentioned, holdovers in general were strong this weekend thanks in part to the deflating of last weekend's grosses by Irene. Two of last weekend's releases, Sony's Colombiana and The Weinstein Company's Our Idiot Brother held up quite nicely this weekend. Colombiana was down 10 percent from last weekend's three-day debut to gross an estimated $9.4 million, while Our Idiot Brother was unchanged to gross an estimated $7.05 million. FilmDistrict's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark held up relatively well given its genre and the new direct competition it faced in the marketplace this weekend, as it was down 28 percent to gross an estimated $6.14 million. Respective eleven-day totals stand at $23.96 million for Colombiana, $17.28 million for Our Idiot Brother and at $17.58 million for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.
Thanks in part to stronger than expected holds in general on Sunday, the combined box office take for the four-day holiday weekend is on pace for $133 million. That is nearly on par with the $132.7 million combined four-day box office gross for Labor Day weekend last year.
Additional Reporting by Phil Contrino.
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