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Weekend Report: 'The Help' Reigns Over Gutless 'Conan,' 'Fright Night'

by Brandon Gray
The Help
 

 
August 22, 2011

It was a box-office bloodbath for Conan the Barbarian and Fright Night among others over the weekend. On the bright side, The Help climbed to the top spot, due to a combination of a strong hold and those weak new releases, while Rise of the Planet of the Apes took second.

The Help eased 23 percent to $20 million, lifting its total to $71.3 million in 12 days. It marked the first time since early January that a movie has risen to No. 1 after previously debuting lower. The last instance was True Grit, but the more thematically comparable The Blind Side also did it. The Help has dusted Julie & Julia and Eat Pray Love, the past female-driven August book adaptations that inspired its release, by a wide margin, thanks to its more broadly-appealing premise.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes extended its lead over most past comparable titles, including X-Men: First Class and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and continued to hold much better than Planet of the Apes (2001). Rise dipped 42 percent to $16.1 million, growing its sum to $133.6 million in 17 days.

The top-grossing new release, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, mustered just $11.6 million on approximately 4,400 screens at 3,295 locations. It's the worst-performing Spy Kids movie by far, grossing a little over a third of the last one, Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (and trailing even further in attendance). It even fell short of Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore from last summer. The eight-year wait did the Spy Kids franchise no favors, as both the original characters and audience out-grew it. The new movie was aimed squarely at tykes, alienating the parents who were necessary to take them, and it lacked a new angle or clear premise, besides its "Aroma-scope" gimmick. Spy Kids 4's run included 3D presentations at nearly 1,350 locations, and they accounted for 44 percent of the gross. According to distributor The Weinstein Company, 67 percent of Spy Kids 4's audience was female and 65 percent was kids under 12 years old.

Conan the Barbarian went the way of past August fantasy/ancient action movies and flopped hard. Joining the ranks of Kull the Conqueror and The Last Legion and grabbing less interest than even The 13th Warrior, Conan reaped $10 million on around 4,500 screens at 3,015 locations. It was a far cry from the 1982 Conan, which had over three times the attendance on its opening weekend, though it had a similar gross ($9.6 million).

The Conan remake's marketing relied on the brand name and generic fantasy action instead of presenting a compelling story and strong characters. The movie's director, Marcus Nispel, was also responsible for the similar dud Pathfinder. With roughly 2,100 locations, 3D was 61 percent of Conan's take. Distributor Lionsgate's exit polling showed that 65 percent of Conan's was male and 69 percent was over 25 years old.

Fellow 1980s redux Fright Night was even less attractive than Conan, and, while it didn't carry the same wannabe blockbuster burden as Conan, it was backed by a more aggressive marketing campaign. Fright Night drew $8.1 million (including Thursday night previews) on close to 4,600 screens at 3,114 locations, and the gross was low even by the modest standards of unromantic vampire movies. It was much worse than Priest and Vampires Suck from the same weekend last year and grossed a fraction of its Disturbia inspiration. Such failures as Jennifer's Body and The Hitcher remake were more comparable.

The original Fright Night made $6.1 million its first weekend back in August 1985, but the remake had around half the attendance, despite having over twice the locations. Included in the Fright Night remake's run were 3D presentations at 2,220 locations, and they made up 61 percent of the gross. The DreamWorks production was distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, which reported a demographic breakdown of 60 percent male and 60 percent over 25 years old.

The Smurfs edged out Fright Night for fifth place. It was down 43 percent, pulling in $7.8 million for a smurfy $117.5 million sum in 24 days.

One Day was largely ignored with a $5.1 million debut at 1,719 single-screen locations, ranking ninth. It was near the bottom among romantic dramas.

Meanwhile, Final Destination 5 saved no face, tumbling 57 percent, which was worse than its predecessor, and grossing an estimated $2.4 million for an anemic $32.3 million ten-day tally.

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Related Stories:
Forecast: 'Conan' and Company Unlikely to Slay Audiences
Ad Fidelity: 'Conan the Barbarian'
Ad Fidelity: 'Fright Night'

Last Weekend
'Apes' Cling to Top Spot, 'Help' Cleans Up

This Timeframe in Past Years:
2010 - 'Expendables' Battle On, 'Vampires,' 'Piranha' Settle for Scraps
2009 - 'Inglourious Basterds' Scalp the Box Office
2008 - 'Tropic Thunder' Tops Again
2007 - 'Superbad' Stays on Top
2006 - 'Invincible' Tackles Top Spot
2005 - 'Virgin,' 'Grimm' Top Glum Weekend

Related Charts:
Weekend Box Office Results
All-Time Worst Openings at 3,000+ Locations
Vampire Opening Weekends
Fantasy Opening Weekends
'Spy Kids' Franchise
Showdown: 'Apes' Vs. Comps
Showdown: 'Final Destination'



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