Box Office Update: Hollywood Scores a Record Summer Worldwide


"The Help" and "The Debt" outshine genre fare at the Labor Day box office; "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" one of August's top earners of all time.

Adult moviegoers helped end the summer on a high note as The Help continued to dazzle with a $19 million Labor Day gross, followed by Helen Mirren drama-thriller The Debt with $12.6 million.

Preliminary tallies indicate that Hollywood succeeded in scoring a record summer, posting domestic revenues of $4.39 billion to $4.4 billion from May 6 through Labor Day to narrowly beat 2009, the previous best ($4.33 billion), for an uptick of just over 1%. Last year, summer revenues came in at $4.21 billlion, putting summer 2011 ahead by more than 4%. Attendance, however, was down a slight 1% from 2010 to 2011.

Overseas, revenues are expected to reach a record-breaking $8.2 billion this summer, up dramatically from $5.8 billion in summer 2010--a 41% increase reflecting the enormous power of emerging markets including China, Russia and Brazil.

Domestic grosses for the long Labor Day weekend were up roughly 5% over 2010.

PHOTOS: How 'The Help' Was Cast

DreamWorks and Participant Media’s The Help -- reminiscent of The Blind Side in its staying power -- and 20th Century Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes fueled the August box office domestically, earning an estimated $123.4 million and $162.5 million through Labor Day, respectively.

The Help, distributed by Disney, didn’t drop at all in its fourth weekend, upping its domestic cume to $123.4 million and becoming the first film since Inception to place No. 1 for three consecutive weekends. Overseas, it rolled out in its first territory -- Australia -- grossing a pleasing $1.7 million.

PHOTOS: 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Many Faces of Andy Serkis

The Debt, from Focus Features and Miramax, played better than expected, fueled by older moviegoers (50% of the audience was over the age of 50). Opening on Wednesday, the movie’s six-day launch was a stellar $14.5 million, better than the $12 million earned by Focus adult hit The Constant Gardener, another Labor Day release, in its first six days. The Debt earned a B CinemaScore.

"It worked, and one important detail is that the film dropped only 1% from Saturday to Sunday [Constant Gardener dropped 7%], showing how well it was embraced by its core audience," said Focus president of distribution Jack Foley, predicing that the John Madden-directed movie will have strong legs.

Labor Day usually belongs to genre pics, but this year’s two new offerings -- found-footage horror thriller Apollo 18 and Shark Night 3D -- took a back seat.

PHOTOS: Summer Movie Guide

From the Weinstein Co./Dimension Films, Apollo 18 narrowly edged past Shark Night 3D and late-summer hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes to come in No. 3, grossing an estimated $10.7 million for the four-day holiday weekend.

Rise of the Apes -- now one of the top August releases of all time -- all but tied with Shark Night 3D for No. 4, with each posting a four-day gross of $10.3 million.

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 -- receiving a poor D CinemaScore --cost just under $5 million to produce, so the Weinstein Co. isn’t financially at risk. 

"The budget was very modest on this film and it was a highly targeted campaign (males), so we are in good shape," said Weinstein president of distribution Erik Lomis.

However, it’s the third weekend in a row that the Weinstein Co. has seen one of its film underperform.

Apollo 18 -- produced by Timur Bekmambetov and Ron Schmidt --did indeed appeal 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, relied 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. The horror title received a C CinemaScore.

Relativity put up all marketing costs for Shark Night, while Sierra/Affinity covered much of the pic’s production budget (pegged in the mid-$20 million range after tax rebates) through foreign presales. The movie begian its international rollout this weekend when opening in Russia to a solid $2.7 million.

On Sunday night, Lionsgate scored strong results when sneaking mixed martial arts drama Warrior, which opens nationwide on Sept. 9, in scores of theaters across the country, including sellout shows in Los Angeles.

Elsewhere at the domestic box office, Sony’s Zoe Saldana action pic Colombiana did the best among the three films playing in their second weekend, grossing an estimated $9.4 million for the four-day holiday weekend for a cume of $24 million. The Paul Rudd R-rated comedy Our Idiot Brother, from the Weinstein Co., grossed an estimated $ 7 million for a cume of $17.3 million.

Dimension’s Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D grossed an estimated $6.6 million for a cume of $31 million in its third weekend.

FilmDistrict’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark grossed an estimated $6.1 million in its second weekend for a cume of $17.6 million.

Sony’s The Smurfs rounded out the Top 10 chart, grossing an estimated $5.6 million for a domestic cume of $133.6 and, coupled with another strong weekend overseas, a worldwide total north of $400 million.

Labor Day Box Office Chart
Title, Distributor/Locations, 4-day Estimated Gross

1.      The Help (Disney, 2,842)--$18 million.
2.      The Debt (Focus Features, 1,826)--$12.6. million.
3.      Apollo 18 (Weinstein Co., 3,328)--$10.7 million.
4.      Shark Night 3D (Relativity Media, 2,806)--$10.3 million.
5.      Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Fox, 3,193)--$10.3 milllion.
6.      Colombiana (Sony, 2,614)--$9.4 million.
7.      Our Idiot Brother (Weinstein Co., 2,555)—$7 million.
8.      Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D (Weinstein Co., 3,007)— $6.6 million.
9.      Don’t be Afraid of the Dark (FilmDistrict, 2,780)—$6.1 million.
10.    The Smurfs (Sony, 2,706)—$5.6 million.