Box Office Report: ‘Apollo 18’ and ‘Shark Night’ Still in a Dead Heat

Adult-fueled dramas "The Help" and "The Debt" continue to trump both; "The Help" becomes first film since "Inception" to top the chart three weekends in a row.

Horror-thrillers Apollo 18 and Shark Night 3D remain in a dead heat at the Labor Day box office, while The Help and Helen Mirren starrer The Debt continue to trump both in an end-of-summer upset.

The final race between Shark Night and Apollo 18 wont’ be called until Monday morning, when updated numbers for the four-day holiday weekend come in.

FILM REVIEW: 'Apollo 18'

The Help will easily win the Labor Day contest with a projected four-day cume of $18 million; it’s three-day cume is an estimated $14.2 million—representing only a 3% drop from last weekend. The $25 million film will cross $120 million in domestic grosses sometime on Monday, besting all expectations. From DreamWorks Entertainment and Participant Media, The Help is the first film since last year’s Inception to top the box office chart for three consecutive weekends. Disney is distributing director Tate Taylor’s pic, based on Kathryn Stockett’s runaway bestseller.

“We continue to add theaters—we have each week—it’s getting us into smaller towns and more rural areas,” said Disney executive vice president of worldwide distribution Dave Hollis. “We’ll slow that expansion of theaters as demand slows on the picture, but we’re hopeful that we’ll continue to play well on into the fall.

FILM REVIEW: Shark Night 3D

The Help began its rollout at the international box office this weekend, opening to a solid $1.7 million in Australia, despite its uniquely American theme.

From Focus Features and Miramax, The Debt is expected to reach $12.2 million for the four-days, putting its six-day launch (the adult drama-thriller opened Wednesday) at a stellar $14.1 million. For the three-day weekend, the John Madden-directed pic is estimated to gross $9.7 million.

The Help, playing in far fewer theaters than its competitors, is overperforming in much the same way The Constant Gardener did, which Focus successfully launched over Labor Day in 2005 (the independent distributor is famous for using the holiday for adult fare).

STORY: 'The Help' Audience: Just Who Exactly is Going to See It?

For genre titles—the traditional staple of Labor Day—the holiday isn’t bringing much good news this year.

Found-footage sci fi thriller Apollo 18, from the Weinstein Co., and Shark Night, from Incentive Filmed Entertainment and Sierra/Affinity, grossed an estimated $8.7 million and $8.6 million for the three-day weekend, respectively.

Projections show Apollo 18 squeaking by Shark Night for the four-day weekend with a cume of $10.7 million, versus a projected $10.5 million for Shark Night. Neither film seemed to particularly please audiences: Apollo 18 received a dismal D CinemaScore, while Shark Night drew a C (The Debt drew a B).

Heading into the weekend, tracking showed Apollo 18 grossing $11 million to $14 million for the four-day weekend, while Shark Night—which didn’t show the same level of heat as Apollo 18—was expected to earn $7 million to $8 million.

Apollo 18 only cost $5 million to produce, so the Weinstein Co. isn’t financially at risk; however, it’s the third weekend in a row that the company has seen one of its film underperform.

STORY: 'Apollo 18' Is 'Not a Documentary,' Says NASA

As expected, Apollo 18—produced by Timur Bekmambetov and Ron Schmidt—appleaed heavily to males, who made up 59% of the audience, while 64% of those buying tickets were over the age of 25.

Apollo 18 is impressive for coming together in less than a year; Dimension and Bekmambetov introduced the project to foreign buyers at last November’s American Film Market.

Director David R. EllisShark Night, fully financed and produced by Incentive Filmed Entertainment and Sierra/Affinity, is relying on younger moviegoers. Exit polling showed that 57% of Friday night’s audience was under the age of 25, while 53% of the audience was male.

Relativity put up all marketing costs for Shark Night, while Sierra/Affinity covered much of the pic’s production budget (just under $30 million after tax rebates) through foreign presales. The movie begins its international rollout this weekend when opening in Russia.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes placed No. 5 for the three-day weekend (Fox didn’t provide a four-day estimate) grossing $7.4 million for a domestic cume of $160 million.

VIDEO: Zoe Saldana Kicks Butt in 'Colombiana' Fight Vignette

Sony’s Zoe Saldana action pic Colombiana did the best among the three films playing in their second weekend, grossing an estimated $7.4 million for the three days for a cume of $22 million. Sony projects the movie will earn $9.3 million for the four days. Our Idiot Brother, from the Weinstein Co., grossed an estimated $5.1 million for the three-day weekend, followed by FilmDistrict’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark with $5 million (four day numbers won’t be available until Monday).

Sony’s The Smurfs rounded out the top 10 chart, and jumped the $400 million mark over the weekend at the worldwide box office.

Labor Day Box Office Chart
1. The Help (2,842)--Est 3-day: $14.2 million. Est 4-day: $18 milion.

2. The Debt (1,826)--Est 3-day: $9.7 million. Est 4-day: 12.2 million.

3. Apollo 18 (3,328)--Est 3-day: $8.6 million. Est 4-day: $10.7 million.

4. Shark Night 3D (2,806)--Est 3-day: $8.6 million Est 4-day: $10.5 million.

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (3,193)--Est 3-day: $7.8 milllion.

6. Colombiana (2,614)--Est 3-day: $7.4 million. Est 4-day: $9.3 million.

7. Our Idiot Brother (2,555)—Est 3-day: $5.1 milion.

8. Don’t be Afraid of the Dark (2,780)—Est 3-day: $5 million.

9. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D (3,007)—Est 3-day: $4.6 million.

10. The Smurfs (2,706)—Est 3-day: $4 million. Est 4-day: $5.5 million. 

Source: Studios