‘The Help’ Tops Box Office for 2nd Week Amid Northeast Storm

The civil rights-era drama “The Help” remained No. 1 for a second weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, taking in $14.3 million for Walt Disney Co. (DIS) and Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios SKG.

The film, about black maids in the racially segregated South, held off three new films, including the revenge drama “Colombiana.” The movie, featuring Zoe Saldana as a professional killer, had sales of $10.3 million to finish second, Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement.

“The Help” is based on a Kathryn Stockett novel about the relationship between black maids and their white housewife employers in 1960s Mississippi. The film has been praised by critics, with a 74 percent positive rating from Rottentomatoes.com, and has generated sales of $96.6 million since it opened on Aug. 10.

“If you look at the box office right now, ‘The Help’ is really the only film that’s doing anything positive over the last two weeks,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles. “There aren’t a lot of female-centric films this summer.”

Sales at theaters in East Coast cities may have been hurt by Hurricane Irene, which hit the country’s most populated area starting Aug. 26 and was downgraded to a tropical storm today, Hollywood.com said.

“The Help” stars Emma Stone as an aspiring journalist who interviews the maids and writes about the indignities they suffer. Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis co-star as the black women who cope with mixed emotions caring for their employers’ white children while enduring insults from the mothers.

Professional Assassin

In Sony Corp. (6758)’s “Colombiana,” Saldana plays a woman who becomes a professional assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents. Her goal is to hunt down the killers. The film was produced by Luc Besson, who also produced and directed “La Femme Nikita,” the Golden Globe-nominated film about a woman trained as a French government assassin.

In “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” also new this weekend, a family discovers they aren’t alone in their recently purchased Gothic mansion. The movie had sales of $8.7 million, good for third place.

Produced and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” stars Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce. It is based on 1973 made-for-television film and is distributed by FilmDistrict.

Idealist Brother

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” the prequel to the 1968 classic, fell to fourth from second, taking in $8.65 million in receipts. The movie from News Corp. (NWSA)’s Twentieth Century Fox revives the franchise that began with the original film about a world where apes dominate humans. Six previous movies have generated $691.3 million in domestic ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo, an industry tracker.

The film features James Franco and has taken in $148.5 million in the U.S. and Canada since it opened Aug. 5.

“Our Idiot Brother,” distributed by the Weinstein Co., opened in fifth place on sales of $6.6 million. The film features Paul Rudd as an idealist who moves in with his siblings after being kicked off his organic farm. His unorthodox approach to life disrupts their lives. The film co-stars Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Rashida Jones.

Weinstein’s “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World” finished sixth with $5.7 million. The movie is the fourth in the series of children’s movies by “Sin City” director Robert Rodriguez.

Motherhood and Marriage

In the latest film, distributed by Dimension Films, Jessica Alba stars as a retired spy who juggles motherhood and marriage after being called back to service. The children join the action after learning about their stepmother’s past. Danny Trejo co- stars as Uncle Machete.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 23 percent to $73.2 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. Domestic box-office sales this year have declined 4.35 percent to $7.27 billion, while attendance is down 5.3 percent.

This week’s sales figures are more reflective of poor- quality films being released at the end of the summer rather than effects from the hurricane, Bock said.

“For a smaller release, that would definitely hurt a film, but not for these major wide releases,” he said in a telephone interview. “People will come and find the film even through bad weather, through hurricanes, through snowstorms. They don’t really want to be stuck in their house all day anyway.”

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Aug. 26-27 and estimates for today.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
================================================================
1 THE HELP             $14.3   2,778   $5,159   -28   $96.6   3
2 COLOMBIANA            10.3   2,614    3,940   --     10.3   1
3 DON’T BE AFRAID DARK   8.69  2,760    3,148   --      8.7   1
4 RISE PLANET OF APES    8.65  3,374    2,564   -46   148.4   4
5 OUR IDIOT BROTHER      6.6   2,555    2,578   --      6.6   1
6 SPY KIDS 4             5.7   3,305    1,733   -51    21.7   2
7 THE SMURFS             4.8   2,861    1,678   -38   126.0   5
8 CONAN THE BARBARIAN    3.1   3,015    1,028   -69    16.5   2
9 FRIGHT NIGHT           3.0   3,114      973   -63    14.2   2
10 CRAZY, STUPID LOVE    2.9   1,577    1,842   -39    69.5   5
11 30 MINUTES OR LESS    2.6   2,071    1,255   -59    31.7   3
12 FINAL DESTINATION 5   2.5   2,085    1,182   -68    37.8   3


Top 12 Films Grosses


   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $73.2         $95.1       -23


Year-to-date Revenue

     2011          2010
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
   $7,273.6      $7,604.6     -4.4%


Year-to-date Attendance:      -5.3%

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Sapna Maheshwari in New York at sapnam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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