'Contagion' tops weekend box office

Actress Marion Cotillard attends the 'Contagion' premiere at the Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 7, 2011 in New York City.
Actress Marion Cotillard attends the 'Contagion' premiere at the Rose Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 7, 2011 in New York City. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Enthusiasm for a new star-powered film about a pandemic infected moviegoers at this weekend's box office, and that sent “The Help” packing.

The end of summer box office over the post-Labor Day weekend is typically the lowest-grossing of the year, and that was the case this time, despite the feverish fans that sent Warner Bros.' “Contagion” into first place. The premier about a scary pandemic grossed $23.1 million, booting “The Help” into second place after a three-week stint in first.

The popular period drama about Mississippi maids who speak out about conditions at the dawn of the civil rights movement earned $8.7 million. We go from maids to martial arts for the weekend’s third place film – Lionsgate’s “Warrior,” the “Rocky”-style film about a pair of estranged brothers who must face each other for the crown of “ultimate fighter," earned $5.6 million.

In fourth place, “The Debt,” starring Helen Mirren as a retired Israeli spy and Nazi hunter, grossed $4.9 million for Marv Films. And rounding out the top five, “Columbiana,” an action film about a woman seeking to avenge the deaths of her parents, took in $4 million.

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