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Box office preview: 'The Help' hopes to sweep away 'Spy Kids,' 'Conan,' 'Fright Night,' and 'One Day'

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The Help Davis Spencer
Dale Robinette

Late August has never been the best time of the year at the box office. As summer draws to a close, and the big-budget blockbusters finish up their theatrical runs, cinemas are often filled with movies that are more difficult to sell than your typical Transformers flick.

This weekend, four newcomers — Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Spy Kids: All The Time in the World in 4D, and One Day — will do their best to achieve box office success, but it’s unclear whether any of them will be able to dethrone The Help, which has sat in the top spot since Monday. It’s going to be a very tight race between the top five films — any of them could end up on top. Check out my weekend predictions below:

1. The Help: $19 million

Thanks to terrific word-of-mouth, the well-reviewed adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel has hopped above Rise of the Planet of the Apes for the past few days. As audiences (primarily older females) continue to hear positive buzz about the film, The Help‘s box office should remain strong. The only direct competition from new releases comes from One Day, but that movie isn’t looking likely to break out. I’m expecting a tiny drop of about 25 percent for The Help. Give the film $19 million for the weekend

2. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D: $18 million

The fourth Spy Kids movie could break out and conquer the box office this weekend. After all, Spy Kids 3D did open to $33.4 million in 2003 and the first three movies in the franchise did gross an average of $102.8 million each. But this $27 million sequel is arriving eight years after the last movie. Children that grew up with these Kids have likely moved on, and I doubt it will match the numbers of its predecessors. Still, there hasn’t been a movie aimed at the little kiddies since The Smurfs, and the 4-D Aromascope gimmick should attract some curious families.

That being said, if there’s one thing working against Spy Kids, it’s the 3-D factor. (I don’t think the terrible reviews will hurt the film too much — it didn’t harm The Smurfs!) Audiences frustrated by 3-D ticket prices may skip out on the film, and perhaps Weinstein/Dimension knows that. Of the 3,295 theaters that the film is playing in, only 40 percent of screens will show it in 3-D. It could pull in $18 million over the weekend.

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes: $17 million

Last frame, the surprise box office smash reigned for a second weekend, but with The Help holding well and competition for male audiences from Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night, Rise of the Planet of the Apes will likely relinquish the top spot. Still, Rise has benefited from positive word-of-mouth, which should help offset a larger drop due to competition this weekend. It may fall by about 40 percent to $16 million this weekend, pushing it’s total to almost $135 million.

4. Conan the Barbarian: $16 million

The remake of the film that gave the world action star-gone-Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger has a tough road ahead of it. Though you intelligent EW readers probably know titular star Jason Mamoa from Game of Thrones, he’s hardly a household name with general audiences. On top of that, Conan (which reportedly cost somewhere in the $70-80 million range, though Lionsgate declined to provide a budget) also faces the 3-D problem. What may have seemed like a good idea when the movie was greenlit could backfire a bit now, as audiences tire of the format. The action-heavy film will pick up a few nostalgic moviegoers as well as some swords-and-shields fan. But competition from Apes and Fright Night may prevent Conan from breaking out. Out in 3,015 theaters, it may finish the weekend with $16 million.

5. Fright Night: $13 million

Now, here’s a movie that’s tough to predict. (Who am I kidding? This whole week has been tough to predict!) Colin Farrell stars in Fright Night, an R-rated vampire-next-door horror flick that’s been earning surprisingly strong reviews. Vamp films outside of the Twilight franchise aren’t usually huge box office performers — Priest earned $29.1 million in May, while Daybreakers grossed $30.1 million in 2010 — and I wouldn’t count on Fright Night notching gigantic numbers. But Disney spent less than $20 million to make the film and has given it a solid advertising push. My main concern is that the trailer may have made Fright Night seem a touch too humorous. As Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant proved when it grossed just $13.9 million in 2009, horror and camp don’t equal mainstream box office success. Fright Night should do much better than that picture though. Playing in 3,114 theaters, it will likely earn about $13 million this weekend

Anne Hathaway’s romantic drama One Day is also opening in 1,715 theaters. Ads have had trouble communicating the confusing 20-year plot, and excitement never really ramped up around the tepidly reviewed movie’s release. It should disappoint with about $6 million.

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie