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Box office update: 'The Help' stays in first with $4.4 mil on Friday, as Hurricane Irene dampens results

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Help Davis Stone
Dale Robinette

With or without Hurricane Irene, this was going to be a soggy weekend at the box office. But due to the storm, which made landfall Saturday morning in North Carolina and will travel through New York and the New England region all day Sunday, movie grosses may wind up being particularly weak. Theater chains such as AMC Theatres and Clearview Cinemas started closing locations in affected areas today and will keep them closed on Sunday.

As for Friday’s business, the top 10 films made an estimated $22.5 million — the worst Friday figure so far this year. The Help fended off three new releases to hold on to first place with $4.4 million on Friday, according to early estimates. Under ordinary circumstances, that result would suggest a $15 million weekend for the PG-13 drama. But depending on how much Hurricane Irene affects business today and tomorrow, The Help could finish the frame closer to $12 million. Either way, the late-summer breakout hit should win the weekend for the second time in a row.

In second, the Zoe Saldana revenge action flick Colombiana opened to $3.8 million on Friday, and should finish the weekend with about $10 million. The PG-13 movie received a strong “A-” rating from CinemaScore graders. However, according to the market-research firm, a surprising 68 percent of Colombiana‘s audience was at least 25 years old.

Younger moviegoers may have instead been checking out Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which debuted in third place with $3.6 million on Friday. The R-rated haunted-house film, co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), attracted a crowd that was 52 percent under the age of 25. But the scariest thing about Dark may wind up being its word of mouth, as CinemaScore audiences handed the movie a pitiful “C-” grade. The $25 million picture is on pace for a $9 million weekend.

The week’s third new release, the Sundance comedy Our Idiot Brother, fared the worst. The R-rated movie, starring Paul Rudd as the clueless brother of Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer, settled for fifth place with $2.4 million on Friday. As a result, it’s on track for an opening weekend of just $6 million or $7 million. And CinemaScore participants gave the film a discouraging “C+” rating. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that The Weinstein Company acquired Brother for only $6 million.

Check back here on Sunday for the complete box office report.

1. The Help — $4.4 mil

2. Colombiana — $3.8 mil

3. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark — $3.6 mil

4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes — $2.6 mil

5. Our Idiot Brother — $2.4 mil

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