* 'Contagion' No. 1 with $23.1 mln domestically
* 'The Help' falls to second place
* New drama 'Warrior' third, 'Bucky Larson' bombs
(Adds details on top 5 films, quotes)
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES, Sept 11 "Contagion" gripped
filmgoers as the thriller about the race to contain a deadly
virus took hold of the top spot at the domestic box office and
knocked hit drama "The Help" to second place.
"Contagion" brought in an estimated $23.1 million at U.S.
and Canadian theaters over its first three days, distributor
Warner Bros. said on Sunday. Six international markets added
another $2.1 million.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film tells the story of
a fast-spreading killer virus and scientists' efforts to stop
it as the body count rises. The movie features an all-star cast
that includes Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet,
Laurence Fishburne and Jude Law.
The film beat studio expectations by telling "a tough story
in a provocative way. There is nothing more icky than this,"
said Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president of domestic
distribution for Warner Bros.
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the movie a B- rating
"The Help," a critics and audience favorite about black
maids who speak out about white employers in civil rights-era
Mississippi, slipped to second place after three straight weeks
as the box-office leader. The film soaked up $8.7 million,
pushing up its domestic receipts to $137.1 million since the
book adaptation hit theaters five weeks ago.
"Warrior," a new drama about two brothers who battle for
victory and redemption in a mixed-martial arts tournament,
finished third with a disappointing $5.6 million. The brothers,
a war veteran played by Tom Hardy and a high-school teacher and
father played by Joel Edgerton, face wounds from the past as
their estranged father, portrayed Nick Nolte, works as one of
The film earned an A from audiences polled by CinemaScore
and positive reviews from critics.
"We're going to continue to fight. The film is an underdog
story and this is an underdog movie," said David Spitz, head of
domestic distribution for Lionsgate LGF.N, the studio that
released the film.
'BUCKY LARSON' FLOPS
The No. 4 movie domestically was spy thriller "The Debt"
with $4.9 million over its second weekend. Action movie
"Colombiana," starring Zoe Saldana as an assassin seeking
revenge, landed fifth with $4.0 million.
Comedy "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star" was a box-office
bomb. Panned by critics, the film about a Midwestern kid who
moves to Hollywood to become a porn star brought in $1.5
million in North American receipts and failed to crack the
weekend's top 10. "While the movie was made on a very modest
budget, it didn't work out the way we hoped," Sony spokesman
Steve Elzer said.
Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc (TWX.N), released
"Contagion." Sony Corp (SNE.N) (6758.T) unit Columbia Pictures
released "Colombiana" and "Bucky Larson."
"The Help" was produced by DreamWorks and distributed by
Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N). Focus Features, a unit of Comcast
Corp's (CMCSA.O) Universal Pictures, released "The Debt."
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Eric Beech)