Weekend Box Office – It’s Still CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS for Moviegoers

     September 27, 2009

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Despite mounting an early and aggressive advertising campaign for their high-concept sci-fi thriller “Surrogates”, Disney could not catch up to Sony’s holdover hit “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” in time to claim the number one spot on the charts.  After opening up a small lead on Friday, the 3D animated toon finished with another $24 million on its second weekend, making it easily the most-successful release of the month at $60 million in total.  September had more bad news for its new releases as both MGM’s reboot of “Fame” and Overture’s sci-fi horror flick “Pandorum” struggled to find their footing.  Ha! Get it?  The dancers of “Fame” couldn’t find their footing!  More witty bon mots after the jump.

Title Weekend Total
1 Cloudy w/a Chance… $24,600,000 $60,036,000
2 Surrogates $15,000,000 $15,000,000
3 Fame $10,000,000 $10,000,000
4 The Informant! $6,915,000 $20,992,000
5 I Can Do Bad… $4,750,000 $44,543,000
6 Pandorum $4,408,000 $4,408,000
7 Love Happens $4,327,000 $14,728,000
8 Jennifer’s Body $3,500,000 $12,306,000
9 9 $2,832,000 $27,101,000
10 Inglourious Basterds $2,732,000 $114,460,000

Surrogates movie poster.jpgAs last weekend wrapped up it was anyone’s guess which of this week’s new films would take number one.  Most analysts had “Surrogates” pegged for the crown thanks to those snazzy TV spots featuring a be-wigged Bruce Willis.  Disney was aiming for a weekend total of about $24 million for its $80 million dollar “Matrix” rip-off.  It was not to be.  After launching in 2,951 theatres, “Surrogates” finished way under predictions with only $15 million for an estimated per seat average of $5,000.

Just to show you what a great prognosticator I am, I was one of the vocal minority who believed that MGM’s “Fame” retread had a solid chance at taking the top spot.  My logic went something like this: “Fame” had the widest release of the week, at 3,096 theatres.  It had marketing that featured lots of leotard-clad dancers and an oh-so-familiar theme song.  Kids like dancing movies these days, don’t they?  And hell, “Fame” is the first release of 2009 from the desperately destitute MGM Studios.  Could fate be cruel enough to crush the dreams of this once-legendary studio just as it is circling the drain?  Obviously I have never been introduced to fate because, hell yes, he is exactly that cruel.

pandorum movie poster (1).jpg“Fame ’09” brought in an estimated $10 million or $3,241 per venue.  The good news here is that the reboot only cost $18 million.  With a quick shuffle to DVD MGM should make out just fine with “Fame”.  If they haven’t gone in to foreclosure by then.

The long-term prospects are not as clear for our third new release of the week, Overture’s R-rated “Pandorum” starring Dennis Quaid.  This was the one film that had no chance of taking number one, thanks mostly to its release date.  Two futuristic sci-fi movies in one week is one futuristic sci-fi movie too many.  With “Surrogates” poised to siphon off the “Pandorum” audience, Overture was looking for a first weekend total of about $10 million.  Cruel fate strikes again.  Although “Pandorum” was relatively inexpensive at $40 million, it probably won’t have a chance to find its legs theatrically.  A lot of good movies are headed to screens in the coming weeks, which means Pandorum’s days in the top 10 are numbered.

In terms of the week’s smaller releases, things were looking much rosier.  The four debut dates for Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” averaged $60,000 a piece for the best per screen average of 2009.  Two weeks before the documentary goes wide, Overture’s estimated gross already stands at $307,000.  Fox Searchlight sent a sneak peak of director Drew Barrymore’s “Whip It” into 500 locations on Saturday, one week before the Ellen Page vehicle hits theatres.  Numbers were not available Sunday morning but the studio says they’re happy with attendance which was estimated to be around 65% of capacity.

This week was the official start of fall, which is good because September was a real drag at the box office.  As I mentioned, October will bring a few very welcome releases, including the “Toy Story 1 & 2” 3D double-feature which launches in 1,600 theatres on October 2nd.  Sony’s “Zombieland” is next weekend’s widest release, with “Whip It” and WB’s “Invention of Lying” following in that order.  But the other studios shouldn’t underestimate Pixar’s magic.  Higher ticket prices and the “limited” run of the double bill will make “Toy Story” hard to beat.  I hope they will adjust their profit expectations accordingly.

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