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Posted at 11:42 AM ET, 09/12/2011

‘Contagion’ dominates box office


Jude Law stars in the weekend’s no. 1 movie. (Claudette Barius)
During a weekend dominated by sorrowful remembrances and heightened vigilance brought on by the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, some Americans opted to escape from the emotional news cycle at the multiplex ... by seeing a film about a deadly virus.

Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” easily won the weekend box office, with a projected haul of $23.1 million, the strongest opening for a Soderbergh movie since 2007’s “Ocean’s Thirteen.” Its subject matter — a realistic look at a killer disease that spreads illness and fear — didn’t seem to be a deterrent to its success; the fact that the field of new releases leaned toward the lackluster probably boosted its box office prospects.

While this was a strong weekend for the outbreak genre, it was a rough one for horror, specifically one particular horror flick that achieved the distinct honor of scoring the fifth lowest opening ever for a national release.

Which movie was it? And which comedian performed more impressively at the box office than producer Adam Sandler? Find out after the jump.

The Help” falls to second place: “Contagion’s” triumph — attributable to the aforementioned lack of strong new releases, largely positive reviews and interest from audiences that skewed over the age of 25 — knocked “The Help” out of the top spot for the first time in three weeks. The adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel still managed to bring in $8.7 million, raising its total to $137.21 million. The film’s budget reportedly came in around $25 million, making the civil rights tear-jerker a particularly lucrative hit.

Kevin Hart brings the “Pain”: The stand-up comedian, who recently appeared in several bits during the hostless MTV Video Music Awards, stars in a new concert movie, “Laugh at My Pain,” that opened Friday. Apparently, his fan base turned out to support him: While only screening on 97 screens, the movie made $2 million over the weekend, yielding an impressive per-screen average of $20,619. By contrast, “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” — the comedy starring Nick Swardson and co-written and produced by Adam Sandler — was a massive flop; playing on 1,500 screens, it earned $1.45 million, with a per-screen average of $967. Advantage: Hart.

The horror, the horror: Three recently released scare-flicks — “Shark Night 3D,” “Apollo 18” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” — dropped a few notches, landing in seventh, eighth and 11th places, respectively. But none of them fared as poorly as “Creature,” an indie film about a half-man, half-alligator that earned just $331,000 on 1,507 screens. According to Box Office Mojo, that was the worst debut of all time for a film opening so widely. The Web site estimates that fewer than six people, on average, bought tickets for each screening. Geez, don’t people want to pay good money to see a half-man, half-alligator anymore?

Here are your top five movies of the weekend based on studio estimates:

1. “Contagion” — $23.1 million

2. “The Help” — $8.6 million

3. “Warrior” — $5.6 million

4. “The Debt” — $4.9 million

5. “Colombiana” — $4 million

Now predict which film will top next weekend’s box office.

By  |  11:42 AM ET, 09/12/2011

 
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