Weekend Receipts: The Help Stays Afloat as Hurricane Irene Does Damage at the Box Office

New Yorkers may have been left unimpressed by the magnitude of Hurricane Irene (not so much folks in the less fortunate cities in her path, let's remember), but the much-hyped weather event left an indubitable mark elsewhere: all the way across the country in sunny Hollywood, where studio execs were likely cursing the name "Irene" as the box office tallies rolled in. With hundreds of theaters shut down across the East Coast due to hurricane panic and ticket sale losses estimated at $25 million, how much did new releases Colombiana, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, and Our Idiot Brother feel the impact of Irene?

1. The Help

Gross: $14,333,000 ($96,630,000)

Screens: 2,778 (PSA: $5,159)

Weeks: 3 (change: -28.4%)

Tate Taylor's adaptation The Help kept hold of the number one slot at the box office for the second week in a row, thanks to strong word of mouth. (And in its third week, it's already zoomed ahead of poor Cowboys & Aliens in domestic box office.) Would this have still happened if East Coast urban-dwellers hadn't been otherwise indisposed by Irene? Maybe. Colombiana also had the older, over-25 female demographic (and an enthusiastic A- audience CinemaScore rating), squeaking out a second place finish despite weaker projections...

2. Colombiana

Gross: $10,300,000 (new)

Screens: 2,614 (PSA: $3,940)

Weeks: 1

... yet between the lackluster reviews, the reduced theater count, and a marketing campaign that made it out to be just another shoot 'em up action movie (which it is, but still), Colombiana didn't live up to its potential. I mean, come on, people -- Zoe Saldana with semi-automatic guns and skimpy outfits should have earned more than $10.3M, but, as with The Help, word of mouth could help it bounce back in its second week post-Irene. Of course, there's the matter of competition from next week's other lady spy thriller starring a hot-bodied fan favorite -- Helen Mirren in The Debt. But let's not also overlook this weekend's rare triumph: Movies led by minority female performers occupy the #1 and #2 slots, and that's worth celebrating.

3. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Gross: $8,689,000 (new)

Screens: 2,760 (PSA: $3,148)

Weeks: 1

Mediocre reviews also impacted the latest offering from Guillermo del Toro, who produced and co-wrote the kid-oriented horror pic Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Aaaaand then there's the fact that the film, starring newcomer Bailee Madison and Katie Holmes, is an R-rated children's pic too scary for its intended audience and too tame for folks old enough to buy a ticket.

4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Gross: $8,650,000 ($148,456,000)

Screens: 3,374 (PSA: $2,564)

Weeks: 4 (change: -46.3%)

Apes rose... and then it fell, to the tune of a whopping 46.3 percent drop off. Ouch. Still, the primate reboot has raked in $148M ($271M worldwide) in its four-week run, wrapping up the summer with a respectable take. Time to get on with the sequel!

5. Our Idiot Brother

Gross: $6,588,000 (new)

Screens: 2,555 (PSA: $2,578)

Weeks: 1

It's hard to say whether the Paul Rudd-as-wise fool comedy would've fared much better on a normal late-summer weekend sans national calamity, but its $2,578 per-screen average (as a new film in wide release) says, probably not. Or maybe if there'd been no Irene, all those unimpressed New Yorkers would have put their end of the world prep money into being unimpressed by the New York-set pic, which earned a meh-level C- CinemaScore? We'll never know. (But probably.)

[Numbers via Box Office Guru]