What dominated the box office this weekend wasn’t even a movie: Hurricane Irene.
The storm that claimed at least 18 lives, left millions without power and closed hundreds of theaters along the East Coast also took an estimated $25 million chunk from movie ticket sales, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The weekend box office gross will probably end up somewhere south of $90 million – about 25 percent lower than the same period last year – making it the second-worst weekend of 2011.
But the skies are still bright for “The Help,” which topped the box office for the second straight weekend with approximately $14.3 million. (The estimates are more tentative than usual, because as many as a thousand theaters were impacted by Irene, The Hollywood Reporter noted.)
DreamWorks and Participant Media’s surprise summer hit, set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, likely was not as damaged as other films were by Irene because it is drawing many moviegoers from the South, in addition to the leading markets of L.A., New York and Chicago. With a running domestic total of $96.6 million, “The Help” will undoubtedly pass the $100 million mark this week.
Guillermo del Toro’s “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” was among the movies that suffered from Irene. It was third in its debut with $8.69 million, narrowly edging out “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which descended to fourth with $8.65 million in its fourth weekend.
“Our key large urban East Coast markets were really killed and many theaters closed or were dead even if they remained open,” said Bob Berney, an executive with FilmDistrict, which released “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”
Just above it was the Zoe Saldana revenge flick “Colombiana.” It placed No. 2 in its debut, with $10.3 million in box office receipts. And Paul Rudd’s latest, “Our Idiot Brother,” rounded out the top five with $6.6 million.