Conan Jason Momoa
Credit: Guy Roland

Despite the release of four new pictures, this weekend’s top two movies at the box office are the same as last frame’s, although they have switched places. The Help climbed past Rise of the Planet of the Apes and into first place, with an estimated gross of $20.5 million. That result marks a fabulous drop of just 21 percent, which indicates that good word-of-mouth about The Help, which earned a rare “A+” CinemaScore grade from audiences, is spreading quickly. Disney’s Kathryn Stockett adaptation has already amassed $71.8 million total, and as it continues to become an event film of sorts, it should fly past the $100 million mark in the next two weeks.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes came in second place in its third weekend, easing 41 percent to $16.3 million. The effects-driven hit has now grossed $133.8 million in 17 days, and it’s running well ahead of Fox’s other summer tentpole, X-Men: First Class, which had earned $120.4 million at the same point in its release. Rise, which cost $90 million to produce, has a lot of life left in it too. With a few more weekends of small declines, the late-summer surprise could finish with about $170 million.

After those two holdovers, the rest of the box office looks pretty grim, as all four new releases debuted to awful numbers. Notably, three of these new releases — Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, Conan the Barbarian, and Fright Night — were released in 3-D. In fact, every movie from third to seventh place at the box office is a 3-D release, and of those five films, only The Smurfs is really doing well.

In third place, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D did the best of all the under-performers with $12 million. The studio claims the number is “respectable” and within expectations, though it pales in comparison to the opening of Spy Kids 3D, which debuted to $33.5 million in 2003. Despite its “4D” Aromoascope gimmick, the latest Spy Kids installment couldn’t come close to that number, and it achieved a tepid $3,648 venue average. The silver lining for Weinstein/Dimension is that the film, which earned a “B+” CinemaScore grade, cost a relatively small $27 million to make.

Conan Jason Momoa
Credit: Guy Roland

Conan the Barbarian, which many considered to be The Help‘s main competition this weekend, got clubbed all the way into fourth place by the maids. The poorly reviewed remake earned $10 million, barely beating the $9.6 million (unadjusted for inflation) debut of the original Conan the Barbarian in 1982. Audiences, which were 76 percent male, gave the action film an unenthusiastic “B-” grade according to CinemaScore polling. Although distributor Lionsgate didn’t provide EW with a budget, it has been reported in the $70-80 million range. Jason Momoa, it might be time to stop writing that sequel now!

Fright Night scared up only $8.3 million this weekend ($400,000 of which came from Thursday 9 p.m. screenings), enough for fifth place. The Colin Farrell vampire remake, produced by Dreamworks for less than $20 million, earned a weak per theater average of $2,665, which suggests that it won’t stick around in theaters for long. Fans of the original Fright Night (1985) seem to have made up most of the audience, as 75 percent of viewers were 25 years old or older. Unfortunately, those people didn’t seem to like what they saw as much as critics did, for audiences issued the film a discouraging “B-” CinemaScore grade.

These three box office disappointments beg the question: Did the fact that they were released in 3-D actually cause them to do worse business? We’ll never be able to know for sure, but it’s clear that 3-D is not currently thriving like it used to.

The 3-D format proved exciting and fresh to audiences when it first resurged in 2008 and 2009, helping movies like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Monsters Vs. Aliens, and Avatar find success, but audiences have recently exhibited a preference against the technology, which jacks up ticket prices (and, according to many, worsens the moviegoing experience) substantially. Despite a higher availability of 3-D venues versus two years, grosses from 3-D theaters have been down this summer, and I have to wonder whether movies like Conan, Spy Kids, and Fright Night would actually have earned more if they hadn’t been associated with 3-D at all. Thoughts? Either way, between the weak 3-D performances this weekend and the underwhelming opening of Glee: The 3D Concert Movie last weekend, I wonder whether Hollywood will take a good, long look at whether they really want to commit more dollars to a technology that seems increasingly unpopular.

The weekend’s other new release, Focus Features’ One Day, a romantic drama starring Anne Hathaway based upon the popular book of the same name, floundered in ninth place with $5.2 million. The film also earned a “B-” from audiences, which were 72 percent female.

In milestone news, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris has now surpassed $50 million. The lighthearted Owen Wilson dramedy has earned $50.7 million. Meanwhile, Pixar’s Cars 2, which has earned $186.9 million domestically, has now passed the $500 million mark worldwide with $501.3 million total, surpassing the original Cars‘ $462 million global cume. Check out the full Top 10 below:

1. The Help – $20.5 mil

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $16.3 mil

3. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D – $12 mil

4. Conan the Barbarian – $10 mil

5. Fright Night – $8.3 mil

6. The Smurfs – $8 mil

7. Final Destination 5 – $7.7 mil

8. 30 Minutes or Less – $6.3 mil

9. One Day – $5.2 mil

10. Crazy, Stupid, Love. – $5.0 mil

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

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