'The Help' opens big in flyover country; top theater in Memphis

The new civil rights-era film "The Help" rang up more than $35 million over its five-day opening, good enough for second place in the box-office rankings behind "Planet of the Apes." Variety points out that "The Help" demonstrated unusually broad appeal in that all five of its top engagements were between the coasts. The market with the No. 1 theater? Memphis.

With more than 100 weeks on the bestseller list, Kathryn Stockett's "The Help" has been read by book clubs in every corner of the country.


Now Disney-DreamWorks' film adaptation looks to be repeating the book's widespread appeal. It's unusual for a film's top engagements to be outside New York or L.A. -- but on "The Help's" opening weekend, all top five playdates fell between the coasts.The top theater for the tale of the bond between a black maid and her white employer in the 1960s South was in Memphis, Tenn., followed by Jackson, Miss. (where the pic is set), then Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.

The spread of top theaters is indicative of how broadly "The Help" played.

Perhaps even more significant, were the amount of "definite recommendations" the film received from auds in exit polls.

The average definite recommend for a film is in the 50%-55% range. "The Help" received 95% definite recommend from women over 35; men under 35 put the film in that category 70% of the time. The strong rating means word-of-mouth should continue to propel the pic.


"The Help" was filmed about 100 miles south of Memphis in Greenwood, Miss., and several Memphis actors and crew members worked on the film. Read John Beifuss' review here, and check his story on the film's local actors here. And click here for Jennifer Biggs' piece on the Memphians who worked as food stylists on the show.

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