Weekend Forecast: Apollo 18, Shark Night 3D, and Helen Mirren Round Out Your Summer

As you fire up the grill and wax philosophical about the meaning of Labor Day this long holiday weekend (i.e. it means no work on Monday!), take a moment to think about the underdogs struggling to do battle at the box office. Killer sharks, astronauts, even the mighty Helen Mirren -- none of this week's new releases may have the power to unseat the chick-lit segregation drama The Help, which could well sweep all comers under the rug with another #1 weekend showing. Bet you never envisioned the summer blockbuster season would end this way, did ya?

NATIONAL OUTLOOK

Apollo 18: Speaking of which, if you didn't already realize, Bob Weinstein & Co. did not, in fact, get their hands on actual evidence of a moon-landing conspiracy. But then, those dumb enough to believe the found-footage faux-documentary is real deserve to blow their cash on Apollo 18. Problem is, that obviously gimmicky hook is about all there is to the film's marketing campaign, and with no early-screening audience jumps and jolts to integrate into the advertising, a la Paranormal Activity, moviegoers have no idea what they're in for. So why bother? FORECAST: $13 million

Shark Night 3D: Poor marketing and a thin premise may make Shark Night just another blip on the release calendar, especially considering its gorehound-disappointing PG-13 rating and lack of emphasis on boobs and blood. I mean, come on; a movie named "Shark Night 3D" should be nothing but boobs and blood, a la the terrible but enjoyable Piranha 3D! You'd think director David R. "Snakes on a Plane" Ellis would know this, but I digress. Teens may come in droves for a chance to see sharks ripping the bikinis off of Sara Paxton and her unlucky fellow co-eds, but if it's too tame to spend precious allowance money on, the kids will head to that crazy secret space "documentary" instead before Saturday even rolls around... FORECAST: $11 million

The Debt: John Madden's delayed spy thriller about WWII-era Mossad agents (Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Martin Csokas) and the secret they keep for decades is the "grown-up" new release of choice this week. OK, it's the only new grown-up game in town. (Credit a starring turn by Helen Mirren as the hot senior version of Chastain, still in the spy game, for stirring some over-30 interest.) But mixed reviews and lackluster audience interest indicate disappointment is in store for The Debt, which opened two days early on Wednesday to get a jump on its more titillating, gimmicky genre competitors. Still, for the last weekend of summer -- and a holiday weekend to boot -- audiences might prefer the more lowbrow offerings on tap. FORECAST: $9 million

THE PRIME DESTINATION

Yep, there are still people in America who haven't seen The Help, despite the fact that it emerged after its first week to top the box office two weeks running. Now's your chance to take Grandma to see the movie everyone's been talking about! Besides, what more appropriate time is there to watch The Help than on Labor Day?

REGIONAL OUTLOOK

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life should attract Francophiles and fans of the enigmatic pop icon, while A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy could draw decent indie attention in limited release thanks to stars Jason Sudeikis, Tyler Labine, and Lake Bell. Elsewhere, Lionsgate's specialty gamble Saving Private Perez -- a comedy spin on Saving Private Ryan about a Mexican drug lord who goes to Iraq to save his brother -- opens in select markets, while the Lucas Black-starrer Seven Days in Utopia hopes to nab that prime golf-enthusiast demographic. My advice? Hunt down the Hong Kong adventure Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame for some martial arts-meets-Scooby Doo fun, in select theaters.

But pray tell: Which films have your ticket-buying vote this Labor Day weekend?



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