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Box office preview: 'The Help' prepares for 'Don't Be Afraid of Our Colombiana Brother'

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Like last weekend, it’s going to be another quiet session at the box office, especially with Hurricane Irene heading straight for most of the East Coast. Unlike last week, when Hollywood bombarded moviegoers with three new 3-D pictures (and one supposedly British Anne Hathaway), this weekend is thankfully all two-dimensional. The breakout hit The Help should remain in first, while three new releases battle for second place: the indie comedy Our Idiot Brother, the haunted-house thriller Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and the revenge action film Colombiana. In what could be an incredibly close race, here’s how I think the top five will finish:

1. The Help: $15 million

After debuting in second place two weeks ago, this PG-13 drama based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel fell only 23 percent last weekend and actually moved up to the top spot. Word of mouth is stellar for the Disney/DreamWorks film, which garnered a rare A+ rating from CinemaScore graders. Considering that this weekend’s new releases shouldn’t steal much of The Help‘s older female audience, expect another minuscule drop of around 25 percent.

2. Our Idiot Brother: $12 million

I could see any of this week’s three new movies claiming second place, but I’m giving the edge to this R-rated Sundance comedy, in which Paul Rudd plays the naive brother of Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer. Reviews have been just okay for the $5 million film, and this is the first time Rudd has attempted to open a movie on his own. But the actor’s Role Models, I Love You, Man, and Dinner for Schmucks all performed well, and really, who doesn’t like Paul Rudd? (Someone in the comments section will say they don’t, but I refuse to believe that it’s possible to dislike Rudd — although it is acceptable to be envious of the man’s inability to age.)

3. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: $11.5 million

This R-rated flick, co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and starring Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce, is receiving mediocre reviews and represents August’s third horror release, after Final Destination 5 and Fright Night. That’s a lot of screaming in one month, and some moviegoers may decide to wait for October’s haunted-house threequel Paranormal Activity 3 instead. But del Toro’s much-advertised name should draw in some of his fans, and the film is being released by FilmDistrict, which turned April’s Insidious into a surprise hit.

4. Colombiana: $11 million

She may have starred in the highest grossing movie of all time (albeit in motion-capture form), but only now is Avatar‘s Zoe Saldana being allowed to headline her own Hollywood picture. In this PG-13 action film, which was produced and co-written by Luc Besson, Saldana plays an assassin out to avenge the murder of her parents. Early reviews have been not bad, though that may change once more critics chime in. The movie should perform particularly well with African-American and Hispanic moviegoers, but whether it’ll be able to extend beyond those demographics remains a big question mark.

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes: $9 million

The simian reboot slipped 49 percent and 42 percent its second and third weekend, respectively. Honestly, folks, I’m splitting the difference here and going with a 45 percent decline, which means Apes will finish the weekend just short of $150 million.