Weekend Box Office (August 7 - 9, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Movie fans wanted mindless action and real American heroes and drove G.I. Joe to a huge number one opening grossing more than the next five films combined by targeting young males. Meryl Streep held her own against all the military hardware generating a strong second place showing for her turn as a celebrity chef in Julie & Julia which played well to adult women. Entertaining entirely different audiences, the two new releases joined forces to help the North American box office break a four-week losing streak as the marketplace beat out last year's numbers by a healthy margin.

Attacking an ultrawide 4,007 theaters, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra posted the fourth largest August opening ever taking in $54.7M this weekend, according to final studio figures. The Paramount hit averaged a muscular $13,654. With an additional $44M from foreign bows in numerous territories, the PG-13 film collected $99M worldwide in its first weekend of play. After its Transformers sequel got panned by critics but attracted massive crowds of moviegoers as 2009's top blockbuster, the studio decided to limit the number of press it would show Joe to ahead of the release. The only films to open bigger in August were The Bourne Ultimatum ($69.3M in 2007), Rush Hour 2 ($67.4M in 2001), and Signs ($60.1M in 2002).

Studio research showed that males made up 60% of the crowd while those over and under 25 were evenly split. Families made up one-third of the audience while 25% of the turnout was Latino. Friday started with a bang with $22.2M in ticket sales. Saturday saw a 18% fall to $18.2M while Sunday declined by another 21% to $14.4M. Produced for a hefty $175M and marketed aggressively to mainstream American moviegoers looking for escapist popcorn fare, G.I. Joe opened as the final major action tentpole of the summer and faced little competition from similar titles.

Adult women not interested in mindless violence lined up for the Meryl Streep-Amy Adams pic Julie & Julia which opened to a strong $20M. Playing in 2,354 theaters, the PG-13 film averaged a strong $8,508 per location and was effective counter-programming against the testosterone blast of G.I. Joe. Julie gave Streep a $20M+ opener in three of the last four summers with each one programmed against a male-skewing action tentpole. In 2006, her comedy The Devil Wears Prada debuted to $27.5M opposite Superman Returns while last summer's musical Mamma Mia! bowed to $27.8M against the record launch of The Dark Knight. Now 60, Streep has become a potent box office star in her later years.

Produced for just $38M, Julie enjoyed a 17% sales bump on Saturday and scored an encouraging A CinemaScore grade making the road ahead look very promising. Films targeting older women tend to have legs too so a final gross north of $80M could result. Studio research from Sony indicated that the film connected with its target audience as 67% was female and 64% was 35 or older. Reviews were positive and moviegoers came out to see the Oscar winner play chef Julia Child.

Disney's 3D actioner G-Force dropped 44% but remained in third place taking in $9.9M pushing the cume to a robust $86.2M for the expensive pic. The Jerry Bruckheimer production looks to break the $100M mark in another week or so.

Ranking fourth with $8.9M was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which lost 50% of its business. With $273.8M grossed in 26 days, the latest Hogwarts pic is running 5% ahead of the last film in the series Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which had taken in $261M at the same point in its run. But with ticket prices rising by 7% over the last two years, Prince has actually sold slightly less stubs than Phoenix. A final domestic tally of about $300M still seems likely. Overseas, the horny teen wizards captured $22.6M (down 49%) to boost the international total to a stellar $542.2M and the global gross to a staggering $816M.

Audiences abandoned the Adam Sandler-Judd Apatow experiment Funny People which collapsed 65% in its second weekend grossing $8M. Falling from first to fifth place, the R-rated dramedy raised its ten-day cume to a disappointing $40.5M and is likely to end its domestic run with a dismal $60-65M. That's a far cry from Apatow's previous R-rated summer comedies The 40-Year-Old Virgin ($109.2M) and Knocked Up ($148.8M). Funny's failure to please crowds will also put an end to Sandler's streak of seven consecutive years with $100M+ grossers. Budgeted at $75M, the Universal film will also struggle overseas.

Knocked Up star Katherine Heigl followed in sixth with her date movie hit The Ugly Truth which pulled in $6.8M, off 49%. The Sony romantic comedy has collected a solid $68.8M. With its $38M pricetag, Ugly cost substantially less than both Funny People and Brüno and will gross much more winning the three-way battle of the R-rated July comedies.

More bad news for Universal came in seventh place where its suspense thriller A Perfect Getaway grossed a weak $5.9M in its opening weekend. The R-rated fright pic averaged a dismal $2,755 from 2,159 locations. Getaway was produced for $14M by Rogue Pictures which also paid for the marketing cost. Females made up 52% of the audience.

Fox's kidpic flop Aliens in the Attic tumbled 50% in its second weekend to $4M boosting the ten-day total to $16.3M. A $25-30M final seems likely. Fox Searchlight's indie hit (500) Days of Summer expanded nationwide and jumped up into the top ten with $3.7M. The Joseph Gordon-Levitt-Zooey Deschanel love story widened from 266 to 817 sites and averaged a good $4,577. Total stands at $12.4M. The horror title Orphan was close behind with $3.7M as well, off 51%, for a $34.8M sum for Warner Bros.

New totals for summer blockbusters outside of the top ten include $393.7M for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, $287.4M for Up, $262M for The Hangover, $187.9M for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur, $174.9M for Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, and $154.8M for The Proposal.

Opening to moderate results in limited release, the mockumentary Paper Hearts grossed $219,494 from 38 theaters for a decent $5,776 average. The Charlyne Yi-Michael Cera pic generated mixed reviews for Overture. The Paul Giamatti comedy Cold Souls bowed in just seven locations and grossed $63,302 for a solid $9,043 average. Critics were generally pleased.

The top ten films grossed $125.7M which was up 16% from last year when The Dark Knight stayed in the top spot for a fourth consecutive time with $26.1M; but down 6% from 2007 when Rush Hour 3 debuted at number one with $49.1M.

Compared to projections, G.I. Joe opened ahead of Sujit Chawla's $48M forecast. Julie & Julia and A Perfect Getaway both bowed close to his respective predictions of $18M and $7M.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the UPDATED charts for the top August openings and the top films of 2009. For a review of Funny People visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when District 9, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, Bandslam, and Ponyo all shove their way into cinemas.

Marketplace - Shop for DVDs, electronics, books, and posters at discounted prices:

# Title Aug 7 - 9 Jul 31 - Aug 2 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra $ 54,713,046 4,007 1 $ 13,654 $ 54,713,046 Paramount
2 Julie & Julia 20,027,956 2,354 1 8,508 20,027,956 Sony
3 G-Force 9,870,594 17,515,489 -43.6 3,482 3 2,835 86,183,076 Buena Vista
4 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 8,928,349 17,909,385 -50.1 3,455 4 2,584 273,848,633 Warner Bros.
5 Funny People 7,986,435 22,657,780 -64.8 3,008 2 2,655 40,537,755 Universal
6 The Ugly Truth 6,750,125 13,187,433 -48.8 2,975 3 2,269 68,838,257 Sony
7 A Perfect Getaway 5,948,555 2,159 1 2,755 5,948,555 Universal
8 Aliens in the Attic 4,021,478 8,008,423 -49.8 3,108 2 1,294 16,314,371 Fox
9 (500) Days of Summer 3,739,702 2,776,891 34.7 817 4 4,577 12,357,265 Fox Searchlight
10 Orphan 3,674,306 7,525,419 -51.2 2,270 3 1,619 34,766,199 Warner Bros.
11 The Hangover 3,369,178 5,194,475 -35.1 1,690 10 1,994 261,979,331 Warner Bros.
12 Transformers: ROTF 3,008,825 4,688,329 -35.8 1,948 7 1,545 393,709,339 Paramount
13 The Proposal 2,825,483 4,931,064 -42.7 1,870 8 1,511 154,751,286 Buena Vista
14 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 2,670,160 5,526,015 -51.7 1,727 6 1,546 187,871,005 Fox
15 The Collector 1,275,753 3,576,296 -64.3 1,270 2 1,005 6,351,293 Freestyle
16 The Hurt Locker 1,260,820 1,909,170 -34.0 535 7 2,357 8,987,925 Summit
17 Public Enemies 987,665 2,527,310 -60.9 906 6 1,090 95,491,810 Universal
18 Love Aaj Kal 625,057 1,241,762 -49.7 102 2 6,128 2,132,627 Eros
19 Up 624,966 1,174,631 -46.8 431 11 1,450 287,392,452 Buena Vista
20 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smith. 467,057 558,360 -16.4 329 12 1,420 174,856,646 Fox
Top 5 $ 101,526,380 $ 79,278,510 28.1
Top 10 125,660,546 107,143,812 17.3
Top 20 142,775,510 122,907,694 16.2
Top 20 vs. 2008 142,775,510 117,383,625 21.6

Last Updated: August 10, 2009 at 5:10PM ET