Box Office Update: 'The Help' Earns a Rare A+ CinemaScore From Moviegoers

11:02 PM PST 08/10/2011 by Pamela McClintock
Dale Robinette/Dreamworks

The stellar grade portends good word-of-mouth for the movie, which is expected to gross $5 million-$5.5 million at the Wednesday box office in a strong start for the big-screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's best-selling book.

Tate Taylor's The Help got off to an impressive start at the Wednesday box office, grossing at least $5 million in its first day and earning a rare A+ CinemaScore from delighted moviegoers.

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DreamWorks and Disney decided to open the movie midweek to build buzz going into the weekend.

The move appears to be paying off, with fans of Kathryn Stockett's novel turning out in force, along with moviegoers simply curious about the film's storyline and large female cast, led by Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard.

It's still too early to say how much The Help will open to over the course of its five-day debut. Disney is sticking to its $20 million estimate, although other box office observers say the film could easily open north of $25 million based on Wednesday's performance.

The Help is only the second movie of the year to receive an A+ CinemaSocre after TriStar/Film District's Soul Surfer. Films earning the top score enjoy strong multiples, such as Soul Surfer, which opened to $10.6 million and grossed $43.9 million domestically. Disney's Tangled and Disney/Pixar's Story 3, both released in 2010, also received A+ CinemaScores and enjoyed similar multiples.

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The Help is benefiting from appealing to female moviegoers otherwise turned off by Hollywood's big summer blockbusters, with women making up 83% of Wednesday's audience. Roughly 78% were over the age of 25.

As a way of comparison, The Help is keeping up so far with Julie & Julia, another femme-fueled film that opened last August. But because Julie & Julia opened on a Friday, it had the advantage of stronger nighttime traffic and grossed $6.4 million for the day. That film opened to $20 million.

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Rival studios were impressed by the business The Help was doing on Wednesday. "That's a terrific number," one executive at another studio said.

Set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Miss., The Help explores the complicated relationships between white women and their maids, and what happens when a young white journalist exposes how the maids are treated

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DreamWorks and Participant Media co-financed the $25 million the movie, which was produced by Chris Columbus and Mike Barnathan's 1492 Pictures. The film is already drawing awards buzz for its performances. 

A survey of 1,000 moviegoers by online ticketing service Fandango found that 77% of those interested in seeing The Help had read the book, while 95% reported that the film's surprising comic relief makes them more interested in seeing the film. And nearly 70% said they were looking forward to seeing a summer movie with substance.

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