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Box Office: 'The Help' is No. 1 again, but Irene hurts ticket sales [Updated]

The Help was the No 1 film again despite the bad weather

Hurricane Irene significantly dampened movie attendance this weekend, but "The Help" still managed to stay afloat.

After opening behind "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" upon its debut earlier this month, the buzzworthy film has now managed to claim the No. 1 spot at the box office two times in a row. In the movie's third weekend of release, the adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's popular novel grossed an additional $14.3 million, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios. The film's current total now stands at an impressive $96.6 million.

But it was a dim weekend at the the box office overall, as bad weather plagued the East Coast. Because of Irene this was one of the slowest moviegoing weekends this year, with ticket sales down roughly 23% compared with the same weekend in 2010. About a thousand movie theaters closed their doors at some point this weekend in response to the storm -- leaving three new movies struggling to do business. "Colombiana," an action flick starring Zoe Saldana, fared best, bringing in a soft $10.3 million. The horror film "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" could only scare up a lackluster $8.7 million, while the R-rated comedy "Our Idiot Brother" didn't have much to laugh about with $6.6 million in ticket sales.

As of Saturday evening, AMC had closed all its theaters in New York, Virginia, Philadelphia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, according to the company's website. Clearview Cinemas shut down all of its 57 locations between New York and Philadelphia on Saturday and Sunday. Regal Cinemas also closed its doors a number of cities. Cinemark, the nation's third-largest theater chain, did not have any of its cinema hours affected by the hurricane.

Of the three new films that opened this weekend, "Colombiana" received the worst critical reviews, garnering a lowly 34% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, the movie about an assassin attempting to avenge her parents' murders was given a better average grade by audiences than either of the weekend's other two debuts -- an A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. While action films traditionally attract a younger male audience, older females were the ones most interested in seeing "Colombiana." The crowd that showed up to see the movie was 57% female, and 65% over the age of 25.

The movie was financed by EuropaCorp. -- the French movie studio co-founded by Luc Besson, who wrote and produced the movie -- but is being distributed in the U.S. and Latin America by Sony.

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" played well with younger females, as well as African Americans and Latinos, according to its distributor Film District. The Bob Berney-headed company acquired the movie -- made years ago for $25 million by the then-Walt Disney Co.-owned Miramax Films label -- when the specialty film division was closed in 2009.

But even after the weather clears up, "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" may have trouble luring in moviegoers. The film, produced and written by Guillermo del Toro about a young girl who learns terrifying creatures are living in her house, was given a dismal average grade of C- by those who saw it.

That was only slightly worse than the C+ grade "Our Idiot Brother" received from audiences. The film appealed mostly to an older crowd, as 70% of the audience was over the age of 25.

The movie, in which Paul Rudd plays a slacker whose sisters try to help him right himself, was financed by the production company Big Beach Entertainment for $5 million. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and January, where it was later acquired by the Weinstein Co. and supermarket mogul Ron Burkle for about $6 million.

[Updated at 12:44 p.m. Aug. 28: None of last weekend's four new releases held up well during their second weekend in theaters. Of that group, the fourth "Spy Kids" movie saw the smallest dip in ticket sales -- off 51% -- but that's still a higher-than-average drop for a family film. It was "Conan the Barbarian" that had the steepest drop, with business for the big-budget action film falling 69% this weekend.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "The Help" (Disney/Dreamworks/Participant): $14.3 million on its third weekend, down 28%. Domestic total: $96.6 million.

2. "Colombiana" (Sony/EuropaCorp): Opened to $10.3 million.

3. "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (Miramax/FilmDistrict): Opened to $8.7 million.

4. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $8.7 million on its fourth weekend, down 46%. $22.1 million overseas in 50 foreign markets. Domestic total: $148.5 million. International total: $158.5 million.

5. "Our Idiot Brother" (Weinstein Co./YUK Films/Big Beach/): Opened to $6.6 million.

6. "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D" (Weinstein Co.): $5.7 million on its second weekend, down 51%. Domestic total: $21.7 million.

7. "The Smurfs" (Sony): $4.8 million on its fifth weekend, down 38%. $25.5 million overseas in 55 foreign markets. Domestic total: $126 million. International total: $256 million.

8. "Conan the Barbarian" (Lionsgate/Nu Image): $3.1 million on its second weekend, down 69%. Domestic total: $16.6 million.

9. "Fright Night" (Disney/Dreamworks): $3 million on its second weekend, down 63%. Domestic total: $14.2 million.

10. "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (Warner Bros.): $2.9 million on its fifth weekend, down 39%. $3.7 million overseas in 19 foreign markets. Domestic total: $69.5 million. International total: $10.5 million.]

RELATED:

Movie review: 'Colombiana

Projector: 'The Help' to brush off the competition again

Word of Mouth: 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark' a team effort

-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Emma Stone stars in "The Help." Credit: Dreamworks

 
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