Contagion 04
Credit: Claudette Barius

It was not a pretty weekend at the box office. According to studio estimates, this was the lowest-grossing weekend of the year, with the top 10 movies collectively earning just $66.4 million. Only one of four new wide releases, the Warner Bros. thriller Contagion, opened to encouraging numbers.

The Steven Soderbergh film, about the outbreak of a deadly virus, swabbed a solid $23.1 million, with $2.3 million coming from IMAX theaters. The PG-13 movie, which featured an Oscar-endorsed cast including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and Gwyneth Paltrow, drew an adult crowd — 81 percent of the audience was at least 25 years old. Made for about $60 million, Contagion garnered positive reviews from critics, but settled for a mediocre “B-” rating from CinemaScore moviegoers.

In second place, The Help suffered its biggest drop (a still very respectable 41 percent) to earn $8.7 million. Before this weekend, the drama had spent 25 straight days at No. 1 — the longest daily streak since 1999’s The Sixth Sense. The Kathryn Stockett adaptation, which was produced for just $25 million, has so far grossed an outstanding $137.1 million.

The mixed martial arts drama Warrior debuted in third to an underwhelming $5.6 million. According to Lionsgate, 66 percent of the audience consisted of, unsurprisingly, men. Of greater interest is whether the PG-13 film managed to attract young men. The studio says 51 percent of the movie’s audience was at least 25 years old, while CinemaScore places that figure at 70 percent. Either way, Warrior skewed a bit older than one would expect for a picture about mixed martial arts. That may be because Lionsgate marketed the $25 million movie as more of a prestige film than an action-packed sports flick.

The good news is that the critically acclaimed film picked up an “A” rating from CinemaScore participants. If favorable word of mouth spreads and Warrior manages to hold up well the next few weeks, it could turn itself into something of a sleeper hit.

Those last two words won’t be used to describe the week’s other two new releases. The Adam Sandler-produced comedy Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star opened in 15th place to a pitiful $1.5 million at 1,500 theaters. (Apparently the movie really likes the number 15.) Those who did attend Sony’s $10 million R-rated film, starring Nick Swardson as an aspiring porn actor, were mostly young men — 65 percent of the audience was male and 64 percent was under the age of 25.

But the half-man, half-alligator monster flick Creature, made by the indie production company The Bubble Factory, dropped the box-office bar to historic lows. The small-budget R-rated film, which was inexplicably released in 1,507 theaters, debuted to a microscopic $331,000. That represents a per-location average of $220. Let’s say the movie screened an average of five times a day at each theater, and that tickets cost $8. Under those circumstances, each showing of Creature drew an average audience of two moviegoers.

Creature also set the worst opening ever for a film playing in at least 1,500 theaters, beating Delgo‘s $512,000 debut. The title character of that 2008 animated flop was also some sort of humanoid reptile. Hey, Michael Bay, you sure you want to produce that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot?

Among holdovers, the spy thriller The Debt fell 51 percent for $4.9 million, and the revenge action film Colombiana dipped 46 percent for $4 million. And in limited release, Laugh at My Pain, the theatrical version of Kevin Hart’s stand-up comedy tour, debuted to $2 million at 97 locations for a stellar per-theater gross of $20,619.

1. Contagion — $23.1 mil

2. The Help — $8.7 mil

3. Warrior — $5.6 mil

4. The Debt — $4.9 mil

5. Colombiana — $4.0 mil

The Help
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