By Sarah Sluis
Hurricane Irene caused millions of dollars of damage. With an estimated 1,000 theatres closed because of the storm, this weekend's box office was no exception. Receipts were down 20-25% from 2010, meaning some $25 million was lost due to decreased attendance. Even in areas where theatres were open, many chose to hunker down for the whole weekend.
The Help held on to its first-place spot by dipping just 28% to $14.3 million. Strong support from areas outside the East Coast, like the South, Los Angeles, and Chicago, kept the movie from dropping significantly. The drama should cross the $100 million mark sometime this week.
Colombiana landed on top of the new releases with a seven-digit debut of $10.3 million. The revenge-action pic, starring Zoe Saldana, drew audiences from all four demographic quadrants. Women comprised 57% of the audience, and 65% of viewers were over the age of 25.
While horror movies normally open big, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark had a more modest debut, racking up $8.6 million. In fact, only two supernatural horror movies have opened lower in the past three years. FilmDistrict had a surprise hit earlier this year with horror movie Insidious, so perhaps the spry distributor can quickly help the film back on its feet.
New York City-set comedy Our Idiot Brother, which finished with $6.5 million, was especially hard-hit by Irene. The movie tested best among East Coast viewers, who couldn't turn out due to the weather. The movie's highest-grossing location, Manhattan's Union Square theatre, was closed Sunday due to the hurricane. Next week it will be hard work to pick up the mess and try to recoup the adult audience.
Vera Farmiga's religious drama Higher Ground released in three theatres, including two in Manhattan, for a per-screen average of $7,000. Studio execs estimated the pic would have averaged $15,000 per screen in better weather.
This Wednesday, The Debt will hit theatres. On Friday, the box office will kick off the long Labor Day weekend with sci-fi thriller Apollo 18 and the sharks-eat-teens flick Shark Night 3D.