It’s bad the battle for least embarassing, as three new releases are going to try (and most likely fail) to take the top spot from The Help, which won last weekend. This week brings Our Idiot Brother, Colombiana, and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark to wide release, and – as it’s the end of the summer – they are all hoping that low competition and low expectations will help them to make modest profits. Columbiana stars Zoe Saldana and with it, she has the largest role for a female person of color this summer. Check out our predictions…

Colombiana screened mostly for junket press – which is a sign of low confidence – but when it comes to Luc Besson-produced action films, after Taken I wouldn’t count this picture dead. But it’s not going to open that strong either. The advertising on this has been low, and it’s coming during the end of summer, which – as I’ve said – is a dead season. If it finds its audience – which it might – it could do really solid numbers, something along the lines of last year’s Takers. As it has the exact same release date, a $60 Million cume would be the win for this picture.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark had a tumultuous post-production as the film was set up at Miramax, but then the company was sold three times before Film District finally got hold of the film. The MPAA rogered it by giving it an R rating when it’s got little on screen violence, and no profanity, but I guess the mood is so pervasive they’re worried about little kids being scared. That said, pretty much every Disney animated classic involves a parent dying or being mistreated, while the G-rated Beneath the Planet of the Apes features people being shot in the head, and the world blowing up. The main things they’ve had to sell is Guillermo del Toro’s good will, and Katie Holmes – Mrs. Tom Cruise – who has never been much of a box office draw, and has never opened a picture. Dark is 2-D, which may give it an advantage over Final Destination 5 and Fright Night, but it is the third horror movie in as many weeks, and the reviews are mixed.

Our Idiot Brother feels like a dump (a “dump” is not a number 2, but a term for a film that is contractually obligated to be released, but is done so without any enthusiasm), or maybe it just doesn’t have the right mixture of things to get it some heat. But people seem to like Paul Rudd, and the supporting cast (including Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel and Emily Mortimer). Maybe it’s that The Weinstein Company – who are releasing the film – are still fiscally crippled even after the worldwide success of The King’s Speech, or maybe the movie didn’t come together. But – while the other pictures might do business abroad – this is the sort of picture that doesn’t play internationally. Even if it did $20 Million for the weekend, it’s unlikely that the film will make money. But Paul Rudd is still something of a movie star, and had this come out in a March, perhaps it wouldn’t feel so secondhand.

Also this weekend Transformers 3 returns to Imax screens for a two week engagement. Studios used to reissue hit films after a successful run in the old days, and they did something similar with Spider-Man in 2002, but because there have been a number of pictures that haven’t done as well as hoped (Cowboys and Aliens, etc.), Paramount likely just sees an opening for a couple more bucks. The film is a little shy of $350 Million domestic, so perhaps that’s also a motivator – though the film has earned nearly $1.1 Billion worldwide. It will be interesting to see if this does drum up some business for the picture, as a reheated and somewhat tepidly received blockbuster didn’t seem to have audiences going crazy for it so much as it was the event film for that weekend.

Here’s my top five predictions:

  1. The Help – $14.7 Million
  2. Columbiana – $13 Million
  3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $9.6 Million
  4. Don’t Be Afraid fo the Dark – $9 Million
  5. Our Idiot Brother – $7.3 Million

The Help is a big old word of mouth hit, and so is Rise of the Planet of the Apes. They are benefiting from weak competition, while the flood of new titles means that films like Cowboys and Aliens and Harry Potter are losing screens to films like Conan the Barbarian, which is doubly good for Apes as the last of the big summer event films. Not only is it facing weak competition from the new films, it’s the best “older” movie in a ten screen or less market.

What are you going to see this weekend?