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‘The Help’ reigns over stormy weekend

Viola Davis (standing) plays one of the Southern maids at the center of “The Help,’’ which has been the No. 1 film for two consecutive weekends. Viola Davis (standing) plays one of the Southern maids at the center of “The Help,’’ which has been the No. 1 film for two consecutive weekends. (Dale Robinette/Walt Disney Pictures)
By David Germain
Associated Press / August 29, 2011

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LOS ANGELES - “The Help’’ remained Hollywood’s top draw with $14.3 million on a slow late-summer weekend whose business was even more sluggish as many East Coast theaters closed to ride out Hurricane Irene.

Studio executives estimate that about 1,000 theaters in the storm’s path shut down for at least part of the weekend and that business may have been off 15 to 20 percent because of Irene.

“It was a wild weekend,’’ said Dave Hollis, head of distribution at Disney, which released DreamWorks Pictures’ “The Help.’’ “All things considered, to kind of come out with business down only 15 to 20 percent is something to be pretty thankful for.’’

“The Help’’ has been the No. 1 film for two consecutive weekends. The acclaimed adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel about black Southern maids sharing stories about white employers amid the civil rights movement raised its domestic total to $96.6 million and should cross the $100 million mark tomorrow.

Late August often is a dumping ground for movies with slim commercial prospects, and Irene cut even further into receipts for the weekend’s three new wide releases.

Zoe Saldana’s action tale “Colombiana,’’ released by Sony, opened in second place with $10.3 million. Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes’s horror story “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,’’ a FilmDistrict release, debuted in third with $8.7 million. Paul Rudd’s comedy “Our Idiot Brother,’’ distributed by the Weinstein Co., premiered at No. 5 with $6.6 million.

Overall business plunged, with domestic revenues totaling $88 million, down 23 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Takers’’ led with $20.5 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

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