Weekend Box Office – CONTAGION Stronger Than Expected at Number One with $23.1 Million

     September 11, 2011


To say the box office has been a bit sleepy of late would be a gross understatement.  Seriously, if I am being bored by the numbers I can only imagine how ordinary movie fans feel.  Four new titles hit theatres this weekend, including Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion. The pandemic thriller, and its A-list cast, drew an impressive three day estimate of $23.1 million: more than enough to end the three-week reign of The Help as the nation’s top draw.

Title Weekend Total
1 Contagion $23,135,000 $23.1
2 The Help $8,691,000 $137
3 Warrior $5,607,000 $5.6
4 The Debt $4,905,000 $21.9
5 Colombiana $4,000,000 $29.7
6 Rise of the Planet of the Apes $3,875,000 $167.8
7 Shark Night 3D $3,533,000 $14.7
8 Apollo 18 $2,913,000 $15
9 Our Idiot Brother $2,761,000 $21.4
10 Spy Kids 4 $2,500,000 $34.2

contagion-teaser-posterTwo weeks ago the East Coast’s Hurricane Irene put a premature end to summer at the box office.  With theatre closings and a lack of strong, new titles, the pre-Labor Day frame ended up being the weakest of 2011… until today.  Even with most theatres open for business, this weekend the domestic box office will end up trailing both Labor Day’s and Irene’s totals – not to mention those dark weekends of last January and February.  Of course, studios don’t expect much revenue from early September releases which is why success stories like last year’s Resident Evil: Afterlife and The Town get so much coverage.  With that in mind, the good news is that 2011 should end up on pace with the same week in 2010 (which was already down 10% from the year prior).

There is also good news for the nation’s new number one movie, Contagion.  The WB-distributed drama opened on Friday to excellent reviews and just over $8 million in grosses.  Projections had director Steven Soderbergh’s latest earning about $20 million by Sunday from its 3,222 locations (including 254 in IMAX), but Contagion ended up ahead of those expectations, with a first weekend gross nearly equivalent to the $23.8 million that last September’s The Town took in on its debut.  The latter, budgeted at $37 million, went on to earn $92 million.  With its international locations and impressive cast, Contagion was a bit more costly.  I can’t see it getting close to $100 million but, then again, I didn’t think The Help would be closing on $150 million so, shows what I know.

After amassing the most consecutive days at number one of any film in the past decade (25), The Help remained a strong force on its fifth weekend in theatres.  The film, which actually saw a modest gain one week ago, experienced its steepest decline to date this weekend.  The fact that that drop was still just 40% is just one indication of how well the film has performed.

warrior-poster-tom-hardy-joel-edgertonAfter running sneak peeks last weekend, Lionsgate sent Warrior into 1,869 runs on Friday.  The Mixed Martial Arts drama with Tom Hardy (Bane in the forthcoming The Dark Knight Rises) has been a hit with critics (equaling Contagion with 82% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes) but less so with audiences.  With Sunday’s estimate of $5.6 million, Warrior fell well behind 2009’s Fighting ($11 million), while earning only slightly more than last year’s The Fighter did on its first weekend in wide release.

At the top of this article I said that there were four new releases.  But where, you may ask, are they on your chart?  Don’t bother to look.  You won’t find them.  Both Bucky Larson: Born To Be a Star, the R-rated comedy which opened in 1,500 locations, and the independent horror film Creature, a surprise release with an even more surprising theatre count of 1,507, failed to make the top ten.  In fact “failed” is a pretty good way to sum both pictures up.  Bucky Larson brought in $1.4 million and fifteenth place while Creature – sure to be 2011’s winner for ‘lowest grossing wide release’ – made just $331,000.

Interestingly, a film few people had on their radar, comedian Kevin Hart’s Laugh At My Pain, managed to top both Bucky and Creature with an estimated $2 million from just 97 theatres. So, at least one person has a reason to feel excited by this weekend’s box office.  Next weekend will see the release of three new titles (and the re-release of Disney’s The Lion King in 3D).  FilmDistrict’s action-drama Drive has some early traction but I’m not expecting September to get more exciting any time soon.


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