This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond – The Help Is “The Help” another “Blind Side” at the boxoffice?

Comparisons have already been made between the two films as both deal with a southern white woman helping less fortunate African Americans to stand up and shine. Of course the two stories are wildly different , taking place in different eras, but both southern-set films trade in drama, comedy and heartfelt situations that ultimately make an audience feel good about itself. And both achieved the very rare distinction of gaining an A+ Cinemascore ranking , meaning that audience satisfaction was sky high and word of mouth should be tremendous. In the case of “The Help” it had the advantage of coming from a sleeper best seller by Kathryn Stockett so there was built-in interest from its core female fans in seeing the film version. It opened mid-week on Wednesday to a very impressive 5+ million but actually improved on that number to over $7 million by the time Friday rolled around . For the three day weekend it earned a mighty estimate of $25.7 million and an overall five day gross of over $35 million. This is not a shock to me as I have seen first hand how the film played with older audiences in pre-release screenings. The story about a southern college grad (Emma Stone) who decides to write a book about the experiences of black maids who are responsible for virtually bringing up young white children in the racially divided south of the 1960’s would not seem to be your obvious summer fare. But it’s great adult entertainment and perfect for women who can really drive box office numbers when there is something they want to see. With a sterling cast including Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Allison Janney, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Cicely Tyson and others plus that A+ Cinemascore you can bet this one will be driven by strong recommendations neighbor to neighbor and should EASILY score over $100 million before its done.

Whether it can reach the heights of “Blind Side’s” $250 million is a much bigger question but critical acceptance via the aggregated scores over at Rotten Tomatoes (a 73% overall fresh number) are better than “Blind Side” ever got near and the factor of the cross over appeal of the book and apparently Tate Taylor’s screen adaptation and direction should be significant going into the weeks ahead. With no major box office behemoths in its way well into September look for big results for Disney and Dreamworks on this one.

On the other end of the scale there’s New Line’s fifth edition of the “Final Destination” franchise, this time in the overworked 3D format. Even with that price hiker boosting it this was not a good weekend for the horror series and probably will mean the franchise itself has arrived at its own final destination, boxoffice wise. With a third place finish and only an estimated $18.4 million and a full million dollar drop from Friday to Saturday this surprisingly fairly well-reviewed flick is already over and out. Audience burnout in raunchy comedies could also be a reason the fifth place finisher, Sony’s “30 Minutes Or Less” scored only $13 million despite having “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer and star Jesse Eisenberg reunited here. Also the premise of a young doofus forced to take place in a bank robbery after being wired with explosives just ain’t all that funny. Sorry. The script also is one of those that thinks four letter words every two seconds is the perfect recipe for laughs. It’s 44% score at RT indicates otherwise (just 34% among top critics).

But worst of all in this week in movies is 20th Century Fox’s attempt to turn a TV show into boxoffice gold with the concert film, “Glee The 3D Concert Movie”. Forget it. It didn’t even crack the top 10 with those overpriced 3D tickets proving people will NOT pay exhorbitant prices for stuff they can see free on TV. This one was a box office embarrassment even though critical response was not all that bad, a 61% fresh rating at RT . And for those who came to see it , they liked what they saw with the under 25 set giving it an A+ Cinemascore . You can never tell.

Fortunately for Fox they still have the number one movie of the week in the highly successful prequel, “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” which fell only 49% week to week and has already crossed the $100 million dollar mark in just ten days. Impressive and well-deserved.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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