Sony is reporting an opening weekend estimate of $35 million for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. That represents a nice bump from the $30.3 million debut of the original in 2009 (when 3D animation was still a hot trend) but is far from the record-breaking run that many expected. The weekend’s other new titles stuck closer to their very modest projections: Rush was edged out by Prisoners for second place, and neither Baggage Claim nor Don Jon managed to distinguish itself on September’s final frame.
|1.||Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2||$35,000,000||$35|
|6||Insidious Chapter 2||$6,747,000||$69.5|
|8.||Instructions Not Included||$3,380,000||$38.5|
|9.||We’re the Millers||$2,865,000||$142.4|
|10.||Lee Daniels’ The Butler||$2,417,000||$110.2|
There was no doubt that Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 would win this weekend. The only real question was by how much. Just days ago, the sequel seemed poised to take September’s all-time opening record with as much as $43 million. That would have been good enough to unseat Hotel Transylvania, the animated hit that opened to $42.5 million on this week last year. In the end, it wasn’t even close.
To be fair, it was box office columnists that ramped up expectations for a new record. Sony maintained that Cloudy 2 was heading for a debut in the mid-$30s and, considering that’s where it wound up, the studio does not need to engage in any damage control this morning. Of course, if Sony did not believe they could significantly improve upon the original opening, it is hard to see why they bothered booking Cloudy 2 into so many theatres. The sequel opened in 4,001 locations on Friday – a record for a September release. The last film to play in that many venues was Despicable Me 2, which says a lot about why projections overran reality this weekend.
Back in 2009, the original Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was a box office bright spot in an otherwise sub-par September. Released a few months before Avatar, the 3D Cloudy grossed $124.8 million by the end of its domestic run. Of course, that was a fraction of what animated hits like Up and Monsters vs. Aliens earned that year at the height of the 3D boom but, during the low-impact month of September, a $30 million debut from an original property was practically a revelation.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs went on to realize excellent holds in the weeks after its debut: driven by strong word of mouth and a lack of alternate family fare. Four years later, a similar formula should favor Cloudy 2. The sequel has not received the same critical praise of its predecessor (58% on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to the original’s 87%), but families will find no new alternatives at their local theatre until November. It’s amazing what a complete lack of competition can do for an animated film… just ask Disney’s Planes.
Among the week’s remaining new titles, hopes were highest for Rush. The race track drama from director Ron Howard had great reviews and a strong limited debut last weekend but still came in under expectations after expanding to 2,297 locations on Friday. In 2,422 venues, Don Jon also failed to match its (very modest) expectations. The R-rated comedy was written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and made for a reported $6 million however so, failing to open above $10 million is far from a disaster. Finally, Fox Searchlight’s Baggage Claim earned an estimated $9.3 million from 2,027 locations. The romantic comedy actually had a higher per-screen average than either Rush or Don Jon so… yay?
Overall box office earnings were down this weekend from 2012 by about 10%. The first week of October will bring us the sci-fi thriller Gravity and the R-rated Runner Runner. Gravity is undoubtedly the stronger contender and should win the frame with over $30 million. That and a nice hold from Cloudy 2 and… we would still not come close to last year, when Taken 2 led.