Apes Rise Again; The Help Comes Out of Nowhere
By John Hamann
August 14, 2011
Ahhh, mid-August, the sun is shining, and no brainer entertainment is likely leading the box office. If that's the case, why is the 83% fresh Rise of the Planet of the Apes battling with The Help, a period piece about race relations in the south, for number one and number two at the box office? This weekend is supposed to be about films like The Expendables, Rush Hour or Superbad, not about thinking! Final Destination 5 has been relegated to a top five spot, and 30 Minutes or Less and the Glee Movie are in the cheap seats! Where were you moviegoers in July?
Our number one film for the second straight weekend is Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but due to some stronger than expected competition and a busy weekend at the movies in general, Rise doesn't hold spectacularly. The James Franco monkey movie earned $27.5 million in its second weekend of release and dropped a hefty 50%.
Despite the drop, Fox has back to back weekend wins with this product, so that means one thing: Franchise. The writers of this one spoke of a three film trilogy of Ape movies this week, and with this second weekend performance, it looks like they will get it. Rise of the Planet of the Apes also had strong daily grosses this past week, earning well over $20 million, likely on the back of the A- Cinemascore it received. It won't repeat for three consecutive weekends so Tropic Thunder or Signs this is not. What it will be is wildly profitable for Fox, as this one cost $93 million, and it crossed the $100 million mark domestically on Sunday, only its tenth day. It now sits with $104.9 million after only two weekends. A $160 million domestic total is completely possible here, and it has pulled in almost $50 million overseas already as well.
Finishing second is The Help, and in my mind this quickly bests some of those R rated comedies as the surprise of the summer (except Bridesmaids, which has earned a quarter-billion worldwide). Starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis, The Help is based on a popular novel that came out in 2009, and quietly sold five million books. The book obviously had an impact. The Help finished second at the box office with a weekend take of $25.5 million, pulling that in from only 2,534 venues. This gives it an awesome venue average of $10,073, and room to expand in coming weekends. The Help opened Wednesday and earned $5.5 million on its opening day. It had a total of $10 million prior to Friday, and after five days, it has earned $35.4 million. The Help cost Disney only $25 million to make, and will make three times that amount at the very least.
Two things drove The Help to its success – women and positive reviews. Clearly African American women would have been the big driver for this film's success, but at these heights, it must have crossed over into a wider demographic. We've recently seen book readers turn Water For Elephants into a small hit with a $16.2 million opening and a $58.7 million domestic total, despite not being a very good movie. Eat Pray Love was the same – not very good – but opened to $23 million and finished with $80 million domestic. The difference with The Help is that its a good movie – not only with critics but also with audiences. It earned a rare A+ Cinemascore this weekend from audiences, and a 73% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. The review rating may be key. It's a drama that isn't approaching 100%, but is more audience friendly, more accessible. We could be seeing something serious in terms of holds with The Help in the next few weekends, but these things can be very tough to predict.