Weekend Wrap-Up

Contagion Spreads Over Post-Labor Day Box Office

By John Hamann

September 11, 2011

No, Jude, you can't be part of Ocean's 14.

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For Damon, Contagion brings one of his bigger openings of the last few years. The Adjustment Bureau and Green Zone opened in Contagion's ball park, $21.2 and $24.8 million respectively. For Gwyneth Paltrow, this is her biggest non-Iron Man film since Shallow Hal in 2001, and for Kate Winslet, it's her biggest going all the way back to Titanic. Obviously the cast liked the script by Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum) and bought into the Soderbergh vision. Burns is now writing Soderbergh's Man From U.N.C.L.E and David Fincher's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Finishing well back in second is the now five-weekend old The Help, Disney's drama about race relations. It was only a matter of time before The Help got knocked down to second, but to stay in either first or second for five consecutive weekends is truly impressive for a film like this one. Following the Labor Day weekend, The Help did the expected and dropped 40%, earning $8.7 million. I like to think The Help has held on for as long as it has because it is a quality film that touched a nerve in America, rather than believe it stayed there because of a lack of competition. The Help is going to easily be a $150 million film for Disney, with $175 million not out of the question. So far, The Help has earned a staggering $137.1 million.


Finishing third is Lionsgate's Warrior, which did everything right in the lead up to release, but then failed to make much money once it opened. The Warrior, a Rocky type film set in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, earned $5.6 million from only 1,869 venues. It had an okay venue average of $3,000. A winner in the review department (Warrior actually tied Contagion's fresh rating at 82%), it had 93 positive reviews out of a possible 113, and is certified fresh at RottenTomatoes. Lionsgate failed to create a buzz around this one, or may have, but not to a broad enough audience. Made for $25 million, tracking was expecting Warrior to open to $8 million, and will need to depend on some serious word-of-mouth moving forward. Still, with this debut, something pretty strange would have to happen to turn this one around.

Fourth is Helen Mirren and Focus Features' The Debt, which got off to a great start last weekend with a $9.9 million opening, but fell back to earth with a sophomore weekend take of only $4.9 million. That gives the John Madden film a drop of 51%, and even following the holiday, that's a bigger than expected decline. It is again similar to that of Focus Features' Constant Gardener, which also launched over the same weekend in 2005. It opened to a similar amount ($8.7 million) and had a similar drop of that of The Debt (46%). Focus is okay with this pattern, as these films both cost about $20 million to make, and will end up with a tidy profit due to overseas grosses. The Debt has earned $22 million so far, and is just getting started overseas.

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