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Hurricane Irene stymies B.O. forecasts

Theater closures on East Coast expected to hit B.O. take

While Disney’s “The Help” looks to hold in the No. 1 spot, Hurricane Irene is making weekend box office predictions tough.

Many East Coast theaters said they would shutter over the weekend, including Clearview Cinemas, which was planning to close its 18 Gotham, two Pennsylvania and 25 New Jersey locations Saturday and Sunday, according to an email to staff. The theater chain plans to reopen its locations Monday and has not yet announced plans to close any locations tonight.

New York alone makes up 6% of the nation’s box office market, and other theater chains are watching the weather closely to determine their plans.

While AMC Theaters announced closings of two theaters in Virginia, a rep for the company told Variety that execs at the plex chain are closely monitoring the situation and are making closure decisions on a theater-by-theater basis. AMC plans to post all closings to its website at AMCtheaters.com/hurricaneirene.

The hurricane’s sweep through the East Coast has rendered the usual weekend B.O. scene unpredictable. B.O. observers said they remain confident on the top spot — with “The Help” leading the frame — but that the other berths are harder to call.

The Weinstein Company’s “Our Idiot Brother” and Sony’s “Columbiana” look to be the closest pics, pulling ahead of FilmDistrict’s “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”

Pre-hurricane, B.O. watchers had said that a film would have to pull in $15 million to be this frame’s top-grosser. Because of the weather, however, that number is looking closer to $10 million-$11 million.

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