‘Help’ tops holiday newcomers

Disney pic wins third frame with $18 mil in four days

Despite the entry of three new wide releases, Disney-DreamWorks’ “The Help” topped the domestic B.O. over Labor Day weekend — the pic’s third straight winning frame — with an estimated $14.2 million in three days and a projected $18 million through Monday.

Focus Features’ espionage thriller “The Debt” surprisingly put up the best fight for No. 1, landing in second place with an estimated $9.7 million in three days, with $12.2 million over the long holiday sesh. (Pre-weekend tracking indicated the pic would earn less.)

Overseas, Sony’s “The Smurfs” maintained its momentum, posting a chart-topping $23.3 million for a cume of $295.8 million.

It’s not too surprising that “The Help” and “The Debt” are projected to have solid perfs on Monday: Both pics are playing well with adults — a considerable boon for Labor Day moviegoing. Through Monday, “The Help” is estimated to have cumed $122.4 million; “The Debt” will have grossed a total $14 million, after its Wednesday berth.

The remaining two releases, “Apollo 18” and “Shark Night 3D,” played neck-and-neck for the following two B.O. slots, grossing in four days an estimated $10.6 million and $10.5 million, respectively.

“Apollo 18,” the Weinstein Co.’s found-footage thriller, reps a considerable low-risk project for Weinstein, having acquired the film for a budget in the low-double digits. “Given what we spent on (the film), added to a highly targeted campaign, we’re pretty happy with the opening,” said Weinstein distribution topper Erik Lomis.

Meanwhile, “Shark Night 3D,” which Relativity Media acquired as a service deal for Incentive Filmed Entertainment and Sierra/Affinity, opened in approximately 90% 3D locations. Pic earned 86% from the format.

The weekend’s fresh fare, with help from Disney’s “Help,” couldn’t keep overall B.O. totals in line with last year’s holiday frame; domestic grosses are down roughly 5%.

Holiday domestic B.O. figures:

Film / Distributor / Four-day estimate / Three-day estimate / Locations

1) The Help (Disney) – $18.0 million; $14.2 million; 2,843

2) The Debt (Focus Features) – $12.2 million; $9.7 million; 1,826

3) Apollo 18 (Weinstein Co.) – $10.6 million; $8.7 million; 3,328

4) Shark Night 3D (Relativity Media) – $10.5 million; $8.6 million; 2,806

5) Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) – $10.0 million; $7.8 million; 3,193

6) Colombiana (Sony) – $9.3 million; $7.4 million; 2,614

7) Our Idiot Brother (Weinstein Co.) – $6.5 million; $5.2 million; 2,555

8) Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Weinstein Co.) – $6.2 million; $4.6 million; 3,007

9) Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (FilmDistrict) – $5.9 million; $4.9 million; 2,780

10) The Smurfs (Sony) – $5.5 million; $4.0 million; 2,706

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