'Contagion' tops weekend box office

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

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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