Movie Projector: ‘Contagion’ will prove deadly for ‘The Help’

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At this weekend’s box office , ‘The Help’ will finally be wiped out of first place by another movie: ‘Contagion.’

After raking in more than $125 million domestically in the four weeks since its debut, ‘The Help’ will be demoted this weekend when the Steven Soderbergh-directed thriller about a deadly pandemic becomes the top ticket seller. According to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, ‘Contagion’ will likely collect at least a solid $25 million this weekend.

Boasting an all-star cast including Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, the film is generating interest among both males and females and a wide range of ages. Since premiering at the Venice Film Festival last week, ‘Contagion’ has gleaned largely positive reviews.

The film was produced by Warner Bros. and Participant Media. Overseas, the movie is opening this weekend in a few small foreign markets, including Italy.


‘Warrior,’ a mixed-martial-arts drama starring relative newcomers Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, may suffer a blow with a soft $8 million opening. The other two new films debuting in wide release, the low-budget movies ‘Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star’ and ‘Creature,’ are not expected to bring in more than $4 million each.

‘Warrior’ is relying heavily upon strong word-of-mouth to ultimately become a success. While the movie is not generating spectacular interest heading into the weekend, Lionsgate is hoping that the film will be buoyed in the coming weeks by positive audience response. The studio held advance screenings in 550 theaters nationwide last weekend to help build buzz about the movie, which has been received even more warmly by critics than ‘Contagion.’

This weekend, a largely male crowd is expected to show up to see the film, which was primarily bankrolled by Lionsgate for about $25 million. The project has been in development at the Santa Monica-based studio since 2008, and production on the film was completed a year later. It then went through an especially lengthy editing process.

Lionsgate likely decided to hold the movie’s release after ‘The Fighter’ — in which the plot also revolves around brothers who are steeped in the world of boxing — took off last year. That film, which had a more high-profile cast with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, opened to $12.1 million on its first weekend in wide release last December and ultimately grossed $129.2 million worldwide.

‘Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star’ was produced by Adam Sandler’s company Happy Madison Productions. Sandler was also a writer and producer of the picture, which had a budget of under $10 million and is being distributed by Sony Pictures. The movie, not screened in advance for critics, stars stand-up comedian Nick Swardson as a Midwestern transplant who travels to Hollywood with the hope of becoming a porn star.

The weekend’s other new opener, ‘Creature,’ is a horror film with no recognizable actors about a band of friends who must fend off a swamp monster. The low-cost film was made by the Bubble Factory, the independent production company headed by former MCA Inc. president Sid Sheinberg.


The Directors: Steven Soderbergh, ‘Contagion’

Word of Mouth: ‘Contagion’ could really catch on

‘Warrior’s’ Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton roll with the punches

— Amy Kaufman