Box Office Report: Hurricane Irene a $30 Mil Threat

6:29 PM PST 08/26/2011 by Pamela McClintock
Dale Robinette/DreamWorks II Distribution Co. LLC

Films are already being hurt as the East Coast prepares for the massive storm; early results show "The Help" staying at No. 1, followed by "Colombiana."

Hurricane Irene could result in box office losses of as much as $30 million for the weekend as movie-going comes to a standstill up and down the East Coast.

Domestic box office revenues for the frame were on track to reach $120 million, but the massive storm could reduce that number by as much as 25%.

By Friday afternoon, the news was grim. “Its horrendous,” one distribution executive noted.

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Across the board, films were posting lower than expected results, including three new titles—the Luc Besson-produced action pic Colombiana, starring Zoe Saldana and distributed by TriStar, the Weinstein Co.’s R-rated ensemble comedy Our Idiot Brother headlining Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer, and the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, distributed by FilmDistrict and starring Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce.

DreamWorks and Participant Media’s holdover The Help remained the No. 1 film early Friday evening, but is now looking at a weekend gross of $10 to $12 million, versus $15 million.

Colombiana was in the No. 2 position on Friday, but may not crack $10 million for the weekend, lower than expected. The rest of the brood -- Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Our Idiot Brother -- may only reach $6 million or $7 in their openings.

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By Friday afternoon, theater owners in the Northeast had started announcing plans to shut their doors.

AMC Entertainment, one of the nation’s largest theater circuits, has said that theaters in Norfolk, Va., Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C., will close on Saturday, and predicts that numerous New York theaters will be closed on Sunday. The circuit also is closing all New Jersey theaters at 6 p.m. Saturday.

And Clearview Cinemas, which operates 57 theaters along the Philadelphia-New York corridor, is closing all of its locations Saturday and Sunday.

Other circuits are likely to follow suit, especially as public transportation systems come to a standstill on Saturday in Philadelphia and New York City, making it difficult for employees to get to work.

Usually, distribution executives know by Friday afternoon how their films are faring, but the storm is making predictions problematic.

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