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'Contagion' to eradicate 'The Help' as top box-office draw

Steven Soderbergh-directed thriller about a deadly pandemic is expected to gross at least $25 million and supplant 'The Help' as the No. 1 movie this weekend.

September 09, 2011|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
  • Matt Damon is among an all-star cast in the thriller "Contagion." The film is generating interest among both males and females and a wide range of ages.
Matt Damon is among an all-star cast in the thriller "Contagion."… (Claudette Barius, Warner…)

At this weekend's box office, "The Help" will finally be wiped out of first place by "Contagion."

After raking in more than $125 million domestically in the four weeks since its debut, "The Help" will be demoted this weekend when the Steven Soderbergh-directed thriller about a deadly pandemic becomes the top ticket seller. According to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, "Contagion" will probably collect at least $25 million this weekend.

Boasting an all-star cast including Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, the film is generating interest among both males and females and a range of ages. Since premiering at the Venice Film Festival last week, "Contagion" has gleaned largely positive reviews.

The film was produced by Warner Bros. and Participant Media. Overseas, the movie is opening this weekend in six small foreign markets, including Italy.

"Warrior," a mixed martial arts drama starring relative newcomers Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, may suffer a blow with a soft $8-million opening. The other two films debuting in wide release, the low-budget "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star" and "Creature," are not expected to bring in more than $4 million each.

"Warrior" is relying heavily on word-of-mouth to ultimately become a success. While the movie is not generating spectacular interest heading into the weekend, Lionsgate is hoping that the film will be buoyed in the coming weeks by positive audience response. The studio held advance screenings in 550 theaters nationwide last weekend to help build buzz about the movie, which has been received more warmly by critics than "Contagion."

This weekend, a largely male crowd is expected to show up to see "Warrior," which was bankrolled primarily by Lionsgate for about $25 million. The project has been in development at the Santa Monica studio since 2008, and production on the film was completed a year later. It then went through an especially lengthy editing process.

Lionsgate probably decided to hold the movie's release after "The Fighter" — whose plot also revolves around brothers steeped in the world of boxing — took off last year. That film, which had a higher-profile cast with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, opened to $12.1 million on its first weekend in wide release in December and ultimately grossed $129.2 million worldwide.

"Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star" was produced by Adam Sandler's company, Happy Madison Productions. Sandler was also a writer and producer of the picture, which had a budget of less than $10 million and is being distributed by Sony Pictures. The movie, not screened in advance for critics, stars stand-up comedian Nick Swardson as a Midwestern transplant who travels to Hollywood with the hope of becoming a porn star.

The weekend's other new opener, "Creature," is a horror film about a band of friends that must fend off a swamp monster. The film, which cost less than $5 million to produce, was made by the Bubble Factory, the independent production company headed by former MCA Inc. President Sid Sheinberg.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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