‘Help’ on the way to 3rd weekend win

Newcomers 'Apollo 18,' 'Shark Night 3D' and 'The Debt' bow moderately

It’s looking like “The Help” will hold on to the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office for the third weekend in a row, dropping only a slight 15% from last week on its way to a four-day weekend take of $14 million to $15 million, according to estimates based on early Friday returns.

As for the newcomers, lunar horror pic “Apollo 18” has grossed between $4 million and $5 million as of Friday afternoon, putting the film on track to top out between $11 million and $13 million over the long weekend. “Shark Night 3D” earned close to $3 million thus far, and B.O. observers are estimating its four-day take at anywhere from $7.5 million to $9.5 million. Pic could pop this evening, however, after students are released from school.

After a couple of days of decent business before the weekend, “The Debt” grossed close to $3 million Friday, though estimates for the weekend diverge, tracking anywhere from $8 million to $11 million and up.

“The Constant Gardener,” similarly launched in 2005, grossed $1.7 million on its Wednesday and Thursday dates. If “The Debt,” which took $1.9 million on those days, continues to play better than “Gardener” did, it should wind up slightly higher than “Gardener’s” four-day run ($11 million).

In its fourth frame, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was down about 25% in early Friday returns, tracking toward $7 million for the elongated sesh.