'The Help' Holds On To #1 Box-Office Spot

Espionage thriller 'The Debt' debuts at #2.

Word of mouth about a movie based on the written word proved powerful yet again as "The Help" clung to the #1 spot at the box office for the third consecutive weekend. The four-day Labor Day weekend is traditionally slow for movie theaters, and while this one was no exception, the ensemble picture based on Kathryn Stockett's debut novel took in another $19 million, according to estimates.

"The Help" debuted at #2 (behind "Rise of the Planet of the Apes") a month ago but has topped the box office each week since. With a $123.4 million domestic gross against its modest $25 million budget, "The Help" movie is a smash just like the novel. The last movie to hold onto the #1 spot for three consecutive weekends was filmmaker Christopher Nolan's acclaimed mind-bender "Inception."

One of the ensemble castmembers from "The Help," relative newcomer Jessica Chastain, turned up as part of the ensemble in the weekend's #2 movie as well. "The Debt" is a remake of a 2007 Israeli film called "Ha-Hov" and features Chastain in flashbacks as a character played by Helen Mirren.

Moviegoers over 40 accounted for roughly 70 percent of the folks who went to see Chastain, Mirren and Sam Worthington in the well-reviewed espionage thriller, which earned $9.9 million in its debut.

"Found footage" horror/ sci-fi flick "Apollo 18" underperformed at the box office and with film critics, landing at #3 with just $8.7 million and scoring only 19 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes "Tomatometer," which collects reviews. It was the latest in a series of rough debuts for the Weinstein Company's Dimension Films brand, on the heels of "Spy Kids:

All the Time in the World in 4D" and "Scream 4."

Dimension's "Piranha 3D" kicked off more strongly than "Shark Night 3D," which debuted at #4 with $8.3 million. Pricier 3-D screenings accounted for roughly 86 percent of the film's box-office receipts. box-office receipts. Entertainment Weekly wrote that the film "doesn't even look like much fun for the sharks."

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," onetime nemesis of "The Help," rounded out the top five with another $7.9 million toward its impressive $162.4 million domestic gross. "Apes" also bears the distinction of being the best-reviewed film in the box-office top five with an 82 percent Tomatometer rating.

The typically sluggish Labor Day weekend wasn't without a few box-office milestones: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" overtook "Spider-Man 2" to become the 14th highest-grossing movie of all time; Michael Bay's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" crossed the $350 million mark; and "The Smurfs" broke into the $400 million club worldwide and remained #1 overseas for a fourth consecutive week.

This weekend's new releases include Steven Soderbergh's ensemble pandemic thriller "Contagion"; the battle-of-brothers drama "Warrior," which had an 87 percent Tomatometer rating at press time; and Happy Madison Productions' "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star," which has yet to screen for critics.

Check out everything we've got on "The Help."

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