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Movie Projector: 'Conan' may not conquer 'The Help'

August 18, 2011 |  2:01 pm

Conan the Barbarian is expected to be No. 1 at the box office this weekend

"Conan the Barbarian," a reworking of the 1982 film that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, is hoping to vanquish the competition at the box office this weekend. But even the sword-wielding brute may not have enough strength to conquer "The Help."

Ever since its release more than a week ago, the adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel about civil rights in 1960s Mississippi has been exceeding industry expectations at the box office. Audiences who saw the film last week gave it a perfect grade of A+, according to market research firm CinemaScore, and that positive word of mouth was reflected in the picture's midweek grosses.

Since Monday, "Help" has collected about $12 million, bringing its total to $47.8 million -- an indication that the film will see only a modest decline in ticket sales this weekend. Disney, which is distributing the movie, is hoping it will collect at least an additional $18 million.

But the new 3-D "Conan" film, which stars big-screen newcomer Jason Momoa, still has a shot at claiming the weekend's No. 1 spot. According to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, the movie will probably gross $15 million to $18 million. That should be enough to beat out the weekend's other three new films in wide release.

The fourth film in the "Spy Kids" franchise -- being released in both 3-D and so-called 4-D, aka Aroma-Scope -- is expected to bring in $11 million to $15 million. "Fright Night," a 3-D remake of the 1980s horror film, is likely to gross around $12 million, and "One Day," a romantic drama based on a bestselling novel, will probably sell roughly $7 million worth of tickets.

"Conan the Barbarian," not surprisingly, is appealing heavily to men. The central character, created in the 1930s by author Robert E. Howard, rose to prominence in the Schwarzenegger film and has since been featured in Marvel comic books and a Saturday morning cartoon -- all of which have been popular with a largely male audience.

The film was financed for $90 million by Nu Image and later acquired by Lionsgate, which paid $25 million for distribution rights in North America and the United Kingdom. That means that the picture's projected opening will be decent for Lionsgate as long as it continues to play well in the coming weeks.

"Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D" is the first film in the family-friendly series to be released in eight years. The third installment about kids on an undercover adventure, "Spy Kids 3D: Game Over" opened in 2003 to $33.4 million and ultimately grossed $197 million worldwide.

Dimension Films, the Weinstein Co.-owned label distributing the film, believes the projected drop in ticket sales for the latest sequel is due partly to the lag time between the third and fourth films.

Those who see the new film, which was produced for about $27 million, will receive scratch-and-sniff cards, giving them the option of smelling eight different odors that correlate to particular scenes.The film is also opening in five foreign territories, including Russia and India, this weekend.

The original "Fright Night" was released in 1985, when it grossed $24.9 million. The new version, which stars Colin Farrell as a vampire who is after his teenage neighbor, was produced by Dreamworks SKG for about $30 million.

In an effort to drum up positive buzz, distributor Disney will release the picture beginning at 9 p.m. Thursday in 1,700 3-D theaters before it expands nationwide on Friday.

Meanwhile, Focus Features will release "One Day" in a total of 1,700 theaters this weekend. The movie, which has received poor reviews so far and is generating the most interest among females, was initially slated for a limited release, but Focus decided to expand it nationwide after deciding it might have more commercial appeal.

The film, which stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as a couple who fall in and out of love over the years, was produced by Focus and Random House Films for about $15 million.

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-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Jason Momoa stars in "Conan the Barbarian." Credit: Lionsgate

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