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Box Office: No. 1 'Contagion' kills off 'Warrior,' other new releases [Updated]

September 11, 2011 | 10:23 am

Contagion was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend "Contagion" managed to catch on at the box office this weekend, but ticket sales for three other new films were anemic.

The Steven Soderbergh-directed thriller about a deadly virus spreading across the globe opened to a solid $23.1 million, according to an estimate from distributor Warner Bros. That was enough to weaken "The Help," which had been No. 1 for the last three weekends. This time around, the film made $8.7 million and had to settle for second place -- the same spot it landed in upon its debut four weeks ago behind "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." After 33 days in release, the adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel has collected $137.1 million.

The prognosis wasn't as good for three other films that opened this weekend -- resulting in the slowest moviegoing weekend of the year so far. "Warrior," a mixed-martial-arts drama which has received excellent reviews, was sent to the mat with a weak $5.6 million. "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star," an R-rated comedy from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions, took in a laughably bad $1.5 million. "Creature," a low-budget, independently released horror film, fared far worse with an embarrassing $331,000.

"Contagion" played in 3,222 theaters this weekend -- over 1,000 more than each of the other three films in wide release did. The pandemic flick appealed to females and males in equal measure, although an overwhelming 81% of the crowd was over the age of 25. The film, which stars A-list celebrities including Matt Damon and Kate Winslet, has gone over well with critics since premiering at the Venice Film Festival this month. But moviegoers who saw the film this weekend gave it a so-so average grade of "B-", according to market research firm CinemaScore.

The film was produced by Warner Bros. and Participant Media for about $60 million, meaning the movie is off to a decent start domestically. The picture also opened in a few small foreign markets this weekend and is poised to do respectable business overseas, where some of its stars -- like French actress Marion Cotillard and Brit actor Jude Law -- hail from.

It was a disappointing weekend for "Warrior," which Lionsgate had hoped could ultimately reach the level of success attained by "The Fighter." The latter, which also has strong themes about family and is set in the world of boxing, debuted with a $12.1-million gross late last year and ended up with a total of $129.2 million worldwide.

But "Warrior" does not well-known stars, as "The Fighter" did with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. Instead, the new release features relative newcomers Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as two brothers from a broken home. As expected, the movie appealed this weekend mostly to male moviegoers, who made up 66% of the audience.

Last weekend, Lionsgate held advance screenings of "Warrior" in 550 theaters nationwide in an effort to build positive buzz about the movie. Still, moviegoers didn't turn up in the numbers the studio was hoping for this weekend -- although those who saw the film really loved it, giving it a grade of "A" on average.

Lionsgate, which primarily financed the film for about $25 million, can now only hope that the good word-of-mouth will travel fast in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, critics loathed "Bucky Larson" so much that as of Sunday morning, the film had earned a rare 0% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And yet audiences still gave the movie about a Midwesterner who travels to Hollywood to become a porn star a "B" -- a higher grade than "Contagion" got.

The movie, distributed by Sony Pictures, stars stand-up comedian Nick Swardson, who was also featured in "30 Minutes or Less" -- another disappointment released by the studio over the summer. Sony spent less than $10 million to make the film, on which Sandler also was a writer and producer.

"Creature," about friends battling a swamp monster, posted the weakest debut of the year for any film that opened in wide release (meaning it opened in more than 1,000 theaters). The flop, which boasted no recognizable actors or filmmakers, was made for less than $5 million by the Bubble Factory, the independent production company headed by former MCA Inc. president Sid Sheinberg.

[Updated at 11:11 a.m. Sept. 11: "Fast Five," released in the U.S. back in April, has crossed the $400-million mark at the international box office. The film, which racked up a respectable $209.8 million domestically, did especially well in China, where it collected $38.1 million. The last film in the "Fast" franchise, 2009's "Fast and Furious," ended up with a comparatively small $208.1 million abroad. Meanwhile, "Fast Five" has yet to open in one foreign territory -- Japan, where it will debut in October.

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

1. "Contagion" (Warner Bros./Participant): Opened to $23.1 million. $2.1 million overseas in 6 foreign markets.

2. "The Help" (Disney/Dreamworks/Participant): $8.7 million on its fifth weekend, down 40%. $1.4 million overseas in one foreign market. Domestic total: $137.1 million. International total: $3.7 million.

3. "Warrior" (Lionsgate/MSP): Opened to $5.6 million.

4. "The Debt" (Focus/Miramax): $4.9 million on its second weekend, down 51%. $1.5 million overseas in four foreign markets. Domestic total: $22 million. International total: $3.5 million.

5. "Colombiana" (Sony/EuropaCorp): $4 million on its third weekend, down 46%. Domestic total: $29.8 million.

6. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" (Fox/Dune/Ingenious): $3.9 million on its sixth weekend, down 51%. $12.5 million overseas in 60 foreign markets. Domestic total: $167.8 million. International total: $207.6 million.

7. "Shark Night 3D" (Relativity/Incentive/Sierra): $3.5 million on its second weekend, down 58%. Domestic total: $14.8 million.

8. "Apollo 18" (Weinstein Co.): $2.9 million on its second weekend, down 67%. Domestic total: $15 million.

9. "Our Idiot Brother" (Weinstein Co./YUK Films/Big Beach): $2.8 million on its third weekend, down 49%. Domestic total: $21.4 million.

10. "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D" (Weinstein Co.): $2.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 48%. Domestic total: $34.2 million.]

RELATED:

Movie Review: 'Warrior'

Word of Mouth: 'Contagion' could really catch on

Movie Projector: 'Contagion' will prove deadly for 'The Help'

-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Marion Cotillard stars in "Contagion." Credit: Warner Bros.

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