'Contagion' proves infectious for US movie-goers

Thriller "Contagion," about a lethal virus that goes global, topped the US box office in its opening weekend with a $23 million take, industry estimates showed Sunday.

The chilling flick, from acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh, who brought audiences "Traffic" and a remake of "Ocean's Eleven," follows a team of doctors attempting to track and contain a deadly pandemic, with an all-star cast including Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet.

In the second spot was "The Help," - the top grossing film from the past few weeks - a drama about African-American housekeepers employed in the US south before the Civil Rights era. It earned $8.6 million, according to the preliminary figures from movie data tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Also in its opening weekend was "Warrior," an action-packed film about mixed martial arts fighters, taking 5.6 million dollars for the third spot.

"The Debt," an Israeli espionage thriller starring Oscar winner Helen Mirren, was bumped down from second to fourth with a $4.9 million in box office receipts.

"The Debt" is the latest hit from the critically-acclaimed Focus Features label that produced and distributed low-budget successes "The American" and "Syriana," both starring George Clooney.

Action flick "Colombiana" brought in $4.0 million to move up one spot to fifth place, while in sixth place was "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the prequel to the 1968 classic "Planet of the Apes."

The James Franco-starring blockbuster took in $3.8 million for a total take of $167 million.

In seventh was horror-thriller "Shark Night 3D," with $3.5 million in receipts, landing just ahead of sci-fi thriller "Apollo 18," about a fictitious mission to the Moon, returning $2.9 million.

Goofy comedy "Our Idiot Brother," starring Paul Rudd and Janet Montgomery, took in $2.7 million for the number nine place.

Children's action movie "Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World" slipped one spot to round out the top ten, with $2.5 million in ticket sales.

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