Dale Robinette
Grady Smith
September 03, 2011 AT 05:12 PM EDT

There are tons of things that you may have done last night to kick off your Labor Day weekend, but chances are, you didn’t go to the movies. For a third weekend in a row, new releases are floundering at the box office, leaving room for The Help to stay perched atop the chart.

The Help earned $3.6 million yesterday, a drop of just 18 percent from last Friday. Over the four-day weekend, though, The Help should actually rise a touch over last weekend and finish the frame with about $17 million, becoming the first movie since Inception to top the box office for three straight weekends.

Meanwhile, this week’s freshmen films—Apollo 18, Shark Night 3D, and The Debt—are locked in a three-way battle for second place. Apollo 18 and Shark Night each grossed $2.8 million on Friday, while The Debt pulled in $2.6 million, but The Debt will likely finish with the best gross of the three. According to exit polling, The Debt‘s audience skews much older (95 percent over the age of 25) than Apollo 18‘s (64 percent over 25) or Shark Night 3D‘s (43 percent over 25), and because older audiences don’t rush out to the theater on opening night the way that younger moviegoers do, movies like The Debt tend to thrive better over the course of a weekend—and during the theatrical run, as well. Give The Debt an $11 million four-day total, with Apollo 18 grossing $10 million, and Shark Night finishing just below $10 million.

Colombiana rounded out the top five with a $2.0 million Friday. The Zoe Saldana action film may gross a surprisingly strong $9.5 million over the extended weekend. It looks like Hurricane Irene really did dampen Colombiana‘s prospects last week!

Check back on Monday for a full box office report.

1. The Help – $3.6 mil

2. Apollo 18 – $2.8 mil

3. Shark Night 3D – $2.8 mil

4. The Debt – $2.6 mil

5. Colombiana – $2.0 mil

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

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