Actress Viola Davis attends the premiere of DreamWorks Pictures "The Help" held at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Samuel Goldwyn Theater on August 9, 2011 in Beverly Hills

*“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” managed to hold off a strong opening of “The Help” to remain box office champ, pulling in $27.5 million.

“The Help,” starring Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, earned a substantial $25.5 million to place second. As previously reported, Disney released the PG-13 drama on Wednesday in an attempt to build buzz heading into the weekend. That strategy seems to have paid off.

Based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel, the film grossed a combined $9.9 million on Wednesday and Thursday — boosting its five-day total to $35.4 million. It also garnered a rare A+ rating from CinemaScore audiences, which means the film should be benefiting from exceptional word of mouth.

Adult women were the driving force behind the $25 million movie’s success this weekend. According to Disney, 74 percent of the audience was female and 60 percent was over the age of 35.

To put things in perspective, Entertainment Weekly reports “The Help” opened stronger than both “Eat Pray Love” ($23.1 million) and “Julie & Julia” ($20 million) — two prior August releases that were also big hits with female moviegoers.

“If The Help‘s word of mouth is as flattering as CinemaScore says it is, the picture could very well become a $100 million smash,” writes EW’s John Young.

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes — $27.5 mil

2. The Help — $25.5 mil

3. Final Destination 5 — $18.4 mil

4. The Smurfs — $13.5 mil

5. 30 Minutes or Less — $13.0 mil