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'The Help' to brush off competition again

The movie about civil rights in 1960s Mississippi is expected to top the box office despite the arrival of an R-rated comedy, a horror movie and an action thriller.

August 26, 2011|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
  • In a scene from "The Help," Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis, standing) attends to the needs of Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard, seated center) and her friends Elizabeth Leefolt (Ahna O'Reilly, left) and Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone, right).
In a scene from "The Help," Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis, standing)… (Dale Robinette, DreamWorks )

Despite the arrival of three new films at the box office this weekend, "The Help" will be in charge again.

The movie about civil rights in 1960s Mississippi has exceeded expectations since debuting just over two weeks ago.

On its first weekend in theaters, "The Help" was runner-up to "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," but in an unlikely feat moved up to No. 1 in its second weekend of release with $20 million in ticket sales. The adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel is expected to sweep in roughly another $15 million this weekend, bringing the movie's domestic total to just under $100 million.

Meanwhile, an R-rated comedy, a horror movie and an action thriller are likely to sell a modest number of tickets on their opening weekend — between $8 million and $13 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

"Our Idiot Brother," starring Paul Rudd as a stoner-slacker whose sisters implore him to get his life together, is attracting the broadest interest of any of the new movies. The film debuted to moderate buzz at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and was financed by Big Beach Entertainment — the production company behind 2006's independent hit "Little Miss Sunshine" — for $5 million.

Shortly after "Idiot Brother's" premiere at the Park City, Utah, festival, the Weinstein Co. partnered with supermarket mogul Ron Burkle to acquire distribution rights to the film in the U.S. and a handful of foreign territories for about $6 million.

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" is tracking well with teenagers as well as African Americans and Latinos. The scarefest, about a young girl who discovers that frightening creatures are inhabiting her home, was directed by newcomer Troy Nixey but is being sold on the name of Guillermo del Toro. The "Pan's Labyrinth" filmmaker not only wrote and produced "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" but was also heavily involved in the movie's production and postproduction.

The picture, made years ago by Walt Disney Co.'s Miramax Films label, saw its release date delayed when the specialty film division was shut down in 2009. Bob Berney's independent distribution company FilmDistrict later acquired the movie, produced by Miramax for $25 million, and is releasing it in the U.S.

Sony expects its newcomer "Colombiana," starring Zoe Saldana as a trained assassin on a mission to avenge the murder of her parents, to open to less than $10 million, although the film's pre-release tracking indicates a slightly higher tally.

Sony is distributing the film in the U.S. and Latin America on behalf of EuropaCorp., the French movie studio co-founded by Luc Besson, who wrote and produced the picture.

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