Movie Projector: ‘Apes’ likely to swing higher than ‘The Help’

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Four new films are opening in theaters this weekend, but it’s unlikely any of them will be able to end the box office reign of ‘Planet of the Apes.’

The movie’s new competitors include literary adaptation ‘The Help,’ the only film with a shot at beating ‘Apes,’ horror sequel ‘Final Destination 5,’ R-rated comedy ’30 Minutes or Less’ and ‘Glee: The 3-D Concert Movie,’ based on the popular TV show.


‘Apes,’ a prequel to the 1968 classic that explores how simians overtook the planet, was the No. 1 film with audiences last weekend, raking in a solid $54.8 million domestically. In the days following its debut, the movie has performed well at the box office, grossing $18.2 million from Monday through Wednesday. That indicates that word of mouth is strong for the film, which moviegoers last weekend assigned an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Fox is hoping that the film’s ticket sales will fall less than 50% this weekend, meaning the movie could collect close to $30 million.

The only film that has a chance of rising above ‘Apes,’ according to pre-release surveys of moviegoers, is ‘The Help,’ an adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel about civil rights in the 1960s. In an attempt to build positive buzz before the crowded weekend, the movie opened on Wednesday and sold a strong $5.5 million of tickets. It should take in another $25 million from Friday through Sunday, putting its total by the end of the weekend at more than $30 million.

People who saw ‘The Help,’ which features an ensemble cast led by Viola Davis and Emma Stone, on Wednesday gave it a perfect score of A+, echoing largely positive reviews. Older females who were fans of the book have so far made up the largest segment of the audience for the film, which was financed by DreamWorks SKG and Participant Media for about $25 million and is being distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

The studios are hoping ‘The Help’ will resonate particularly well with African Americans and in the South, as it takes place in Mississippi. On Wednesday, the picture did especially strong business in Jackson, Miss., Dallas and Chicago.

The film is opening on the same weekend as the earlier ‘Julie & Julie’ and ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ two movies that women rallied behind in recent years. 2009’s ‘Julie & Julia,’ starring Meryl Streep as Julia Child, opened to $20 million and went on to gross $129.5 million worldwide. Last summer’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ also based on a popular book, debuted to $23.1 million and ended up with a global tally of $204.6 million.

The fifth ‘Final Destination’ movie, about teenagers attempting to cheat death, is not expected to perform as well as the last entry in the series, ‘The Final Destination.’ Fueled largely by 3-D, it opened to $27.4 million in 2009. But with American filmgoers’ interest in 3-D waning this year and some fans feeling burned after the poorly received previous entry, the new picture will likely take in about $20 million.

Warner Bros.’ New Line Cinema label spent around $40 million to produce ‘Final Destination 5,’ meaning it should be off to a decent start -- especially if it performs as well overseas as its predecessor. ‘The Final Destination’ collected $119.7 million of its $186.2 million tally abroad.

’30 Minutes or Less’ is the last in a line of R-rated comedies to hit theaters this summer. It will probably debut to about $15 million, less than such hits as ‘Bad Teacher’ and ‘Horrible Bosses’ but a decent start given its modest budget. Media Rights Capital spent $28 million to make the movie, which stars Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride. Sony Pictures later acquired ’30 Minutes or Less’ and is distributing it worldwide. So far, the moderately reviewed movie is generating the most interest among young men, while ‘Final Destination 5’ will probably draw more young women.

The one wild card this weekend may be 20th Century Fox’s ‘Glee’ picture. Made up of footage from a recent concert tour during which series regulars performed musical numbers from the television show, the movie is aimed at existing fans. But it’s unclear how many of those self-described ‘Gleeks’ will be interested in shelling out money for a pricey 3-D ticket, especially when they’ve seen a number of the the same songs on TV.

Earlier this year, ‘Never Say Never,’ a concert film which followed pop star Justin Bieber on the road, grossed a strong $98.4 million worldwide. But only two years ago, a similar movie featuring the Jonas Brothers proved to be a disappointment, collecting just $23.2 million globally.


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Word of Mouth: Timing right for ’30 Minutes or Less’?

Black leaders give ‘The Help’ a hand in marketing

-- Amy Kaufman