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Irene 'Wounding' Weekend Box Office

Hurricane Irene and the closure of at least 1,000 theater locations along the East Coast is expected to put a dent in this weekend's domestic box office.

Plastic tape blocks the entrance to the Chambers St subway station August 27, 2011 in New York City. In anticipation of a large storm or hurricane hitting the city, the New York City mass transit network, the nation’s largest, closed at noon on Saturday, ending subway, bus, and commuter rail service until Monday.
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Plastic tape blocks the entrance to the Chambers St subway station August 27, 2011 in New York City. In anticipation of a large storm or hurricane hitting the city, the New York City mass transit network, the nation’s largest, closed at noon on Saturday, ending subway, bus, and commuter rail service until Monday.

Preliminary figures show the weekend box office is off 26 percent from last year, according to Paul Dergarabedian, President of the Hollywood.com Box-office division.

The Rentrak box office reporting service said in an advisory "a possible 1,000 theaters could be affected by the weather on the East Coast. We've been hearing about closures of many theaters."

There were reports Clearview Cinemas, which has 57 theaters in the NYC-Philadelphia area, closed most locations over the weekend. AMC Entertainment, another major chain, also planned to shut locations in the path of the hurricane.

Three major films are debuting in theaters this weekend: "Colombiana," an action flick from Sony's TriStar; the indie horror flick "Don't be Afraid of the Dark" from FilmDistrict; and Weinstein Company's comedy "Our Idiot Brother."

"Hurricane Irene is definitely wounding this weekend's box office, but only by washing away a couple million off the top of our estimates," Boxoffice Magazine's Amy Nicholson tells CNBC. "To be honest, none of this weekend's three new releases was projected to open to more than $12 million."

Hurricane Irene - A CNBC Special Report
Hurricane Irene - A CNBC Special Report

Nicholson said the marketing on new releases "just wasn't there to motivate people to leave their houses regardless of the weather. At least those executives now have an act-of-God excuse for why their films underperformed."

Nicholson added that the drama "The Help," a three-week-old release that was predicted to win the weekend, "has barely been affected. We bet on Wednesday it would make $15 million -- and after Friday's numbers, it's still on track to do $14.5 million."

"The Help" has so far brought in an estimated $96.7 million at the US box office since its release August 10, according to Boxoffice.com. The film is part of DreamWorks Pictures' multi-picture distribution deal with Disney's Touchstone Pictures label.

Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable issued a press release saying "Hurricane Irene gives Time Warner Cable customers the perfect excuse to get caught up with on demand shows and movies." The company has 5.9 million subscribers along the East Coast.

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