WEDNESDAY PM UPDATE: The DreamWorks pic based on the bestselling book could hit $30M for its first 5 days but will certainly make the $25M which distributor Disney is predicting with its ‘A+’ CinemaScore despite a crowded weekend coming. My sources say Wednesday’s opening take is ranging from $5.5M to a high of $6M from 2,511 theaters. Now the question is exactly how frontloaded The Help turns out and how many more loyal readers flock to theaters after Day One. Then again the book sold 3 million copies and remained on the NYT best-seller list for 103 weeks. According to comps, these so-called appointment films for women based on popular books usually perform in the $20sM. For instance Eat Pray Love did $23M for Friday-Saturday-Sunday the same August weekend last year and its first 5 days was $29M. Julie and Julia also hit $20M.
This is the 2nd film that Disney is releasing from DreamWorks 2.0 and was partly financed by Participant Media which specializes in socially relevant films and documentaries. Hollywood has been likening The Help to Driving Miss Daisy which, although platformed at the start of its release, went on to earn a staggering $100M at the domestic box office and win the Best Picture Oscar with a similar mix of racial comedy and period drama and stellar casting. The Help‘s ensemble cast already is the subject of DreamWorks-promoted early awards chatter for the performances by Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Octavia Spencer, Cicely Tyson, and latest “It” girl Emma Stone.
I understand the book was shopped throughout Hollywood but with the proviso that writer Kathryn Stockett’s best friend Tate Taylor had penned the screenplay and also would direct even though the Mississippi native had zero credits. Yet Dreamworks CEO Stacey Snider and co-president of production Holly Bario decided to greenlight anyway. Producers are Chris Columbus and Mike Barnathan from 1492 Pictures.
With a microbudget of $25M, rival studios note that The Help more than made up for that with a heavy and expensive rotation of TV ads. To jumpstart buzz, DreamWorks/Disney arranged over 300 advance screenings of The Help to create word of mouth. then the cast embarked on a personal appearance tour to San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Jackson MS, Tampa, and Las Vegas. Marketing tactics included a HSN partnership, Starbucks digital network campaign with soundtrack tie-in, and extensive group sales initiatives targeting faith and family groups, women’s groups, and book clubs.