It what may be the lowest grossing weekend of the year, The Help finished in first place for the second week in a row with $14.3 million, according to studio estimates. The PG-13 drama dropped only 28 percent — a particularly impressive hold considering that this weekend also marked the debut of Hurricane Irene, which was downgraded to a tropical storm as it made its way through New York City and New England. The Help, which cost $25 million to produce and has so far earned $96.6 million, should cross the $100 million mark by Wednesday.
But while The Help managed to withstand Mother Nature, the overall market took a beating. According to the box office reporting service Rentrak, as many as 1,000 theaters closed at some point during the weekend due to Irene. AMC Theatres, for instance, shut down all of its theaters in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
“Our key large urban East Coast markets were really killed and many theaters closed or were dead even if they remained open,” said FilmDistrict exec Bob Berney in a statement, whose studio released the horror flick Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. “The E-Walk on 42nd Street in Manhattan gross was $20,800 on Friday and $0 on Saturday.” The weekend box office was down an estimated 23 percent from last year, and is running neck and neck with Super Bowl weekend (Feb. 4-6) as the slowest of the year. (It’s too early to say which weekend will claim the dubious title.)