Box Office: Contagion Tops Weekend, Leaves Audiences To Buy More Kleenex

A year ago this weekend the big new release was the fourth installment in the Milla Jovovich vs. Zombies series, Resident Evil: Afterlife. Based on the popular video game franchise, one of its antagonists is a pharmaceutical company that breeds a virus strain that alters living organisms (specifically humans). The new release Contagion bares no resemblance to the Resident Evil franchise with the exception of a bat-pig virus that affects mankind. And for this second weekend of September if definitely lived up to its title, killing the rest of the box office as it opened north of $23 million. With lots of star appeal and an ad campaign that gets under your skin, it had no problem finishing first. Those holding out hope that Bucky Larson would take the top spot, well keep holding as its pathetic opening wasn’t enough to make it at the bottom rung of the top ten.

Attending a showing Saturday afternoon, there was a large number of adults in attendance curious to see what Steven Soderbergh’s virus thriller was all about. As the first big adult-oriented release after The Help it made its presence known as a big movie (though not as big as the trailers would lead you to believe) with enough star power of recognizable faces. Considering that Soderbergh was behind such adult fare as Traffic and Erin Brockovich, Contagion‘s opening number isn’t that surprising.

The Help, after spending three straight weeks in first, dropped to second though its drop was minor. Five weeks into its run it is still adding theaters as the racial dramedy continues to flourish on the big screen. Now its total is a very impressive $137 million. Remember, 2009’s The Blind Side was a November release that finished with a $255 million domestic total. Regardless of quality of content, notice how it is a blockbuster without frills. It wasn’t booked on IMAX screens or presented in 3D (so no surcharge there). It’s biggest star was Emma Stone, and that’s only if they caught her in last year’s Easy A or noticed her from Crazy, Stupid, Love‘s release a few weeks prior to The Help.

Lionsgate’s MMA drama Warrior had to settle for bronze. Despite good reviews, only the marketing department has itself to blame. The trailer was that bad. It could have easily placed its emphasis on the two estranged brothers and their drunkard father – which is far more interesting than the cage fighting – or tried to sustain suspense and not outright tell us what to expect in the final act.

The Debt had a surprising second-place finish last weekend, but dropped to fourth with the arrival of Contagion and Warrior. With numbers similar to The American, but without the star presence of a George Clooney, Focus Features has to be happy with its $22 million domestic total thus far. If it gets a decent roll out overseas in countries like England and Germany, it may finish its run with more than $50 million overall.

The Debt did just enough to hold off Colombiana, which has been able to hang around in the top ten due to the lack of action entries in theaters. Rise of the Planet of the Apes keeps trucking along, adding another $3.9 million to its total. Thrill seekers could care less for Shark Night 3D or Apollo 18. Our Idiot Brother crossed $20 million. Not bad for a Paul Rudd comedy that wasn’t directed by or didn’t look like it was produced by Judd Apatow.

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star and Creature both opened on 1500 screens and grossed a pitiful $1.5 million and $331k, respectfully. Which makes Laugh at My Pain‘s $2 million gross that much more impressive. The comedy, starring Kevin Hart, opened on 97 screens and averaged $20k per location.

1. Contagion – $23.1 million
2. The Help – $8.7 million ($137 million)
3. Warrior – $5.6 million
4. The Debt – $4.9 million ($22 million)
5. Colombiana – $4 million ($30 million)
6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $3.9 million ($374 million worldwide)
7. Shark Night 3D – $3.5 million ($15 million)
8. Apollo 18 – $2.9 million ($15 million)
9. Our Idiot Brother – $2.8 million ($21.4 million)
10. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World – $2.5 million ($34 million)

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