Weekend Report: 'The Help' Works It Over Labor Day
The Help stayed in charge for the third weekend in a row, remaining the saving grace of the last few moribund weeks of Summer 2011. The drama earned $19.9 million over the four-day Labor Day weekend, seeing a slight uptick Friday-to-Sunday and lifting its total to a stellar $124.3 million in 27 days. The last movie to hold the top spot for three weekends was Inception.

Thanks to many holdovers seeing small declines or gaining some steam, overall Labor Day weekend attendance was on par with 2010, 2009 and 2008, though it was still at the bottom of the scale for the past 15 years.

Among the modest debuts, The Debt was the only remotely impressive one. Ranking second, the thriller collected $12.85 million on close to 1,900 screens at 1,826 locations for the four-day weekend, or over three-quarters of The American's $16.7 million on the same weekend last year, and it has tallied $14.75 million since its Wednesday debut. Distributor Focus Features noted that a whopping 70 percent of The Debt's audience was age 40 years and older, and that there was a near even split between genders.

The dueling horror movies, Apollo 18 and Shark Night 3D, were nearly $580,000 apart in their four-day openings, but both were bloodless. Apollo nabbed $10.7 million at 3,328 nearly single-screen locations, while Shark packed $10.1 million on approximately 4,100 screens at 2,806 locations. Shark's run included around 2,500 3D locations, and they accounted for 86 percent of its business. Apollo had the weakest launch yet for a "found-footage" horror movie, while Shark's bite wasn't even as big as the diminutive Piranha 3D from last summer. The demographics were 57 percent male and 56 percent under 25 years old for Apollo (according to distributor The Weinstein Company), and 52 percent female and 57 percent under 25 for Shark (according to Relativity Media).

Surpassing estimates placed it behind Shark Night, Rise of the Planet of the Apes ranked fourth, generating $10.3 million. The Apes reboot fell only 11 percent Friday-to-Sunday and has rallied $162.6 million in 32 days. Off 28 percent, Colombiana slipped to sixth with a $9.6 million four-day and has bagged $24.1 million in 11 days, or more than The Losers did in its entire run.

Our Idiot Brother held up better (down 22 percent Friday-to-Sunday) than the other second-weekend holdovers, posting a $7 million four-day for a dull $17.3 million sum in 11 days. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark fell further into oblivion, collapsing by 39 percent Friday-to-Sunday and mustering a $6.4 million four-day for a weak $17.8 million tally in 11 days.

Meanwhile, golf drama Seven Days in Utopia was a miss with $1.8 million at 561 locations in its four-day debut, and the re-rollout of Cars 2 stalled. The Pixar sequel took in $1.78 million at 2,043 locations, compared to Toy Story 3's $2.74 million (at three-quarters the locations) on the same weekend last year. With $189.3 million in 74 days, Cars 2 will be the first Pixar movie since A Bug's Life not to reach $200 million, and it's also the company's least-attended movie yet by a wide margin.

In milestone news, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 edged out Spider-Man 2 to rank as the 14th highest-grossing movie ever, boasting $375.6 million in 53 days, while Transformers: Dark of the Moon crossed the $350 million mark on its 67th day.

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This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2010 - 'The American' Out-Draws The Mexican

• 2009 - 'Final Destination' Clings to Labor Day Lead

• 2008 - 'Bangkok Dangerous' Tops Weekend with Small Opening

• 2007 - '3:10 to Yuma' Arrives at Top Spot

• 2006 - 'Covenant' Hovers Over Weak Weekend

• 2005 - 'Exorcism' Torments Top Spot, Sticks It to 'The Man'

Related Charts:

4-day Weekend Box Office Results

3-day Weekend Box Office Results

• Found Footage Opening Weekends

• Terror in the Water Opening Weekends