Despite Hollywood’s September slowdown, studios are still sending plenty of movies into theatres. Few of this year’s fall freshmen are connecting with audiences, however. Like Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” one week ago, this weekend’s box office had room for only one hit out of four attempts – Sony Animation’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. The CGI adaptation of the popular children’s book brought in an estimated $30 million in its first three days for over $9,000 per screen. When measured against competing titles like “Jennifer’s Body” and “Love Happens” that’s damn near a landslide of cash.
|1||Cloudy with a…||$30,100,000||$30,100,000|
|3||I Can Do Bad…||$10,060,000||$37,932,000|
|8||All About Steve||$3,400,000||$26,678,000|
|10||The Final Destination||$2,375,000||$62,392,000|
Let’s breakdown the “Meatballs” selling points: the movie is based on a well-known children’s book, it is the first kid-friendly picture to see release since Robert Rodriguez’s “Shorts” crashed and burned four weeks ago, it had the benefit of the largest 3D theatre count to date (1,828 of its 3,119 screens) plus bookings in 127 IMAX locations. On top of all that “Cloudy” also had critical support to the tune of an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Sony Animation has to be happy with this performance on a film that they didn’t seem to want to market until a couple of weeks ago. Prior to today the studio’s biggest hit was 2006’s “Open Season” with a $23.2 million debut weekend and Sony seemed content with tying that total until Friday’s “Cloudy” numbers began rolling in. The promos that they did run were cleverly done but I’m thinking that today’s total could have been higher if the studio had made a stronger effort. Sony has every reason to celebrate this morning but, all things considered, their victory party could have been bigger.
In other CGI animation news, this summer’s “Ice Age 3D: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” became the third highest-grossing film of ALL-TIME overseas earlier this week. Released back on July 1st, “Ice Age 3” battled with “Transformers 2” in its first week in American theatres. Then, after a $40 million opening, Fox’s animated threequel slowed a bit and ended up with $195 million in domestic sales. Not exactly the film you’d predict to beat “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the all-time charts. But while “Ice Age” cooled here at home it stayed on fire internationally – finally topping $667 million overseas or 77% of its $862 million worldwide total. See? That’s how you market an animated film.
Back in the here and now, Matt Damon helped Steven Soderbergh’s latest off-beat feature, “The Informant!”, to a respectable $10.5 million weekend. If this were your typical studio “star” vehicle I would have to say that – based on the numbers – gaining all that weight to play a corporate whistleblower was a waste of time for the actor. But as “The Informant!” was both inexpensive to make ($22 million) and difficult for Warner Brothers to market, I’m gonna call this one a marginal success.
No such luck for our next new release, the mawkish romance “Love Happens”. I had forgotten that this movie existed until its TV spots started popping up last week. I waited for stars Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart to make the talk show rounds but it never happened: always a bad sign. The inexpensive romantic drama was made in a 50/50 split between Relativity Media and Universal so there isn’t a lot riding on a big opening weekend here – which is good because, with only $8.4 million from 1,898 theatres, a good first frame was not in the cards. Universal said that they only needed $7.5 million to make their investment back on “Love Happens”, however, which explains why Aniston could lay low.
Fox, meanwhile, was not about to let Megan Fox sit out the debut of “Jennifer’s Body”. With the film’s main selling point ostensibly being the presence of “The Sexiest Woman Alive”, laying low was never an option. The studio began hyping their Diablo Cody-scripted horror/comedy months ago and I think we all believed that their efforts on the low budgeted film would pay off. Wrong again. With a theatre count of 2,702 and a weekend estimate of only $6.8 million, “Jennifer’s Body” is by far the biggest flop of the week. Apparently Megan Fox is less appealing when she isn’t standing next to giant f*cking robots.
Next week September will try again to get itself a certifiable hit when the remake of “Fame” hits theatres along with the Bruce Willis sci-fi flick “Surrogates”. Maybe fall should just quit while it’s ahead?