Box Office Preview: ‘Contagion’ gets shot at No. 1

Posted Sept. 10, 2011, at 11:42 a.m.

LOS ANGELES — The fall movie season breaks out this weekend with Steven Soderbergh’s all-star “Contagion” from Warner Bros. inoculating the domestic movie marketplace with around $25 million and firing “The Help” from its three-week stint at No. 1.

Starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and more, “Contagion’s” A-list cast, scientific realism and IMAX screens offer an infectious mix for sophisticated audiences looking for a taut, brainy thriller about pandemic pandemonium.

Disney’s “The Help” enters its fifth weekend with nearly $130 million in hard-earned cash, and with another small weekend drop expected, the film should tidy things up in the low teens.

The likely third-place contender with an expected gross of close to $10 million is Lionsgate’s “Warrior,” starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as brothers competing in a high-stakes mixed martial arts tournament. In an Oscar-worthy performance, Nick Nolte plays their estranged, recovered-alcoholic father who is suddenly thrust into the role of trainer for one of them.

A stronger-than-expected Labor Day weekend debut and solid mid-week grosses by “The Debt” from Focus Features should land the espionage thriller starring Helen Miren in fourth place with around $7 million.

The Weinstein Co.’s space-age thriller “Apollo 18” could splash down this weekend in fifth place with around $6 million after a third-place debut over the Labor Day holiday.

But Fox’s relentless “Rise of The Planet of the Apes” could also lunge at the top 5 on its sixth weekend out as it approaches the $170 million mark in North America.

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