Weekend Wrap-Up

Conan Brings Only the Lamentation of the Box Office

By John Hamann

August 21, 2011

Secret identities are so silly.

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From Conan of old: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women”. Conan crushed absolutely jack this weekend, finishing the weekend with approximately half the gross of “The Help”, a film filled with women who are doing zip in regards to lamentation. It was another bizarro weekend at the box office, as four films rolled out this weekend. Two were remakes (Conan, Fright Night), one was a sequel (Spy Kids: Infinity), and one was a botched book adaptation (One Night). The holdovers ruled this weekend, as The Help sizzles and turns into the story of the late summer.

Our number one film of the weekend is last weekend's number two film, The Help, from Walt Disney Pictures. A book adaptation done right and then handed off to that unbeatable Disney Marketing Machine, The Help has come out of nowhere to rule the box office over the last 12 days. In its first five days, The Help earned a surprisingly large $36 million. Over that weekend proper, it earned $26 million. This weekend, The Help held strongly, earning $20.5 million and dropping only 21%. As I stated in last weekend's column, dramas don't usually show up in the summer, and if they do, are usually counter-programming kept to small theaters and art houses. The Help is neither. It's out to 2,690 venues, and had a very healthy venue average of $7,613 this weekend. If a film is to move from second to first, these days it almost has to be a drama, and a good one at that. The Help is beginning to stir memories of The Blind Side, this time with Emma Stone instead of Sandra Bullock.


Why, then, is this drama so successful when others have tried and failed to gain a foothold in the summertime? First off, this is a good movie. It's 73% fresh at RottenTomatoes and earned an A+ Cinemascore, a score reserved for films that really strike a chord with audiences. Since it debuted, though, there has been a very interesting debate about how race is treated in this film. I must admit I didn't realize it until I saw Wyatt Cenak on The Daily Show this week, but then began to read the different opinions on the Web. Some consider The Help to be a film that eases white guilt about race relations in the 1960s. Others believe the film brings these issues to the forefront, and is a true depiction of life for black and whites of that era. I have not seen the film, so will not offer an opinion. If you would like to read about the issue, Salon.com offers a great blog post that looks at both sides of the argument.

These kinds of discussions can make a film like The Help even more popular, as one can't take a side unless they've seen what's being discussed. Regardless of the debate, Disney has a huge film on their hands. The Help has now earned an extremely impressive $71.8 million so far against a minuscule budget of only $25 million. Despite being August, next weekend serves up a solid line up of new releases, so The Help would have do something pretty special to hang on to the number one spot. Regardless, this is going to be a solid $100 million picture for Disney, as their marketing machine has done it again.

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