Weekend Box Office (September 11 - 13, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Tyler Perry ruled the charts once again as fans flocked to North American multiplexes for his latest film I Can Do Bad All By Myself which gave the filmmaker his fifth career number one hit and second this year. Opening to solid results in second place was the animated sci-fi actioner 9. But after a string of violent R-rated films in recent weeks, audiences stayed away from two competing thrillers which foolishly opened on the same day - the college slasher pic Sorority Row and the Antarctica-set murder mystery Whiteout. Both flops debuted outside the top five with averages of under $1,900. Overall, the box office dipped from a year ago with the Top 20 sliding 9% from the same weekend in 2008.

Scoring the ninth highest September opening ever, I Can Do Bad All By Myself easily landed in first place this weekend grossing $23.4M more than doubling its closest competitor, according to final studio figures. The PG-13 film averaged a sensational $10,398 from 2,255 locations. It was Perry's widest bow to date slightly edging out the 2,000-2,200 theaters his films usually are released in by Lionsgate.

The Atlanta-based media mogul once again proved how reliable he is at the box office with his eighth film in the last five years and fifth number one opener overall. Perry's previous number ones include Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea's Family Reunion, Why Did I Get Married?, and Madea Goes to Jail. All distributed by Lionsgate and none costing too much to produce, his previous seven films have grossed a combined $369.8M averaging $52.8M each.

Myself stars the Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson as a selfish woman who learns to open up after taking custody of three children. Like many of Perry's films, it was adapted from his play and connected with his core audience of African American women and couples. It was his third best opening ever after the two Madea flicks and proved that his fan base still has a healthy appetite for his unique brand of entertainment. Though in a supporting role, the Madea character was a key part of the marketing materials given its strong drawing power. The early fall release also followed a summer movie season that saw hardly any major Hollywood films with a significant number of black actors so pent-up demand helped.

Winning over sci-fi fans was the stylish animated film 9 which opened to $10.7M over the weekend and $15.2M in the five days since its Wednesday launch. Produced by Tim Burton, the Focus release averaged a healthy $6,466 from only 1,661 locations over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The PG-13 tale of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world opened midweek on 9/9/09 in a gimmick to spark interest with audiences. Fox used a similar technique three years ago when it launched the remake of the devilish thriller The Omen which had a rare Tuesday release on 6/6/06.

Quentin Tarantino scored the second $100M blockbuster of his career this weekend with The Weinstein Co./Universal's Inglourious Basterds which dropped 47% to $6.1M boosting the domestic cume to $103.9M. The war drama will surpass the $107.9M of the director's 1994 hit Pulp Fiction by the end of the week, although it is not likely to end up selling more tickets. For Brad Pitt, it was his ninth career blockbuster to reach nine digits. Fox's stalker comedy All About Steve fell 50% to $5.6M in its second weekend giving the Sandra Bullock pic $21.7M in ten days. A $35M final seems likely.

Falling 55% to $5.5M in its third weekend was the 3D horror pic The Final Destination which has now taken in $58.3M in 17 days. The latest installment in the horror franchise is now the top-grossing film in the series having surpassed the $54.1M of 2006's Final Destination 3. The first chapter with its $53.3M gross in 2000 still is tops in admissions having sold about 10 million tickets compared to under 8 million sold by the new 3D flick which benefits from higher prices. But overseas, the new Destination has been faring well taking in an estimated $17.3M this weekend from 28 territories to lift the international tally to $55.3M and the global gross to $113.6M.

Moviegoers were unimpressed by the weekend's two new thrillers which opened in sixth and seventh with similar results. Summit's horror entry Sorority Row bowed to $5.1M from 2,665 locations for a weak $1,899 average. The R-rated slasher flick made a play for the under-25 set but young adults held onto their dollars. Warner Bros. countered with Kate Beckinsale's murder thriller Whiteout which opened with $4.9M from 2,745 sites (the most of any new film this weekend) for a dismal $1,791 average. Reviews were horrendous.

Hollywood programmed two competing scary movies against each other a few weeks ago when The Final Destination debuted opposite Halloween II. But each was a brand-name horror sequel so audiences came out and spent a combined $43.8M on the opening weekend. Sorority Row and Whiteout were both new and untested entities and faced stiffer competition resulting in a disastrous $10M in combined ticket sales. But audiences have not seen the last in this wave of fright films. Still to come this fall are Jennifer's Body on Friday, Pandorum a week later plus Zombieland, Night of the Demons, The Stepfather, and Saw VI throughout the Halloween month. Some may get slaughtered at the box office.

Sony followed with two hits that could not be more different. The cat food-eating aliens of District 9 dropped 50% to $3.5M while Meryl Streep's gourmet cuisine in Julie & Julia cooked up $3.2M, off 41%. Totals are $108.5M and $85.2M, respectively. Rounding out the top ten was the Gerard Butler actioner Gamer with $3.3M crumbling 64% from its opening. With $16.3M in ten days, a final take of $20-22M seems likely for Lionsgate.

The top ten films grossed $71.5M which was down 13% from last year when Burn After Reading opened in the top spot with $19.1M; but up 20% from 2007 when The Brave One debuted at number one with $13.5M.

Compared to projections, I Can Do Bad All By Myself opened ahead of my $19M forecast while 9 was close to my $9M prediction. Both Sorority Row and Whiteout debuted much less than my respective projections of $14M and $10M.

Check the NEW chart of the top September openings. Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

For a review of Whiteout visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Love Happens, Jennifer's Body, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and The Informant all open.

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

# Title Sep 11 - 13 Sep 4 - 6 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 I Can Do Bad All By Myself $ 23,446,785 2,255 1 $ 10,398 $ 23,446,785 Lionsgate
2 9 10,740,446 1,661 1 6,466 15,160,926 Focus
3 Inglourious Basterds 6,140,617 11,629,394 -47.2 3,215 4 1,910 103,903,469 Weinstein Co.
4 All About Steve 5,638,243 11,241,214 -49.8 2,265 2 2,489 21,650,628 Fox
5 The Final Destination 5,522,377 12,368,882 -55.4 2,732 3 2,021 58,280,235 Warner Bros.
6 Sorority Row 5,059,802 2,665 1 1,899 5,059,802 Summit
7 Whiteout 4,915,104 2,745 1 1,791 4,915,104 Warner Bros.
8 District 9 3,538,769 7,076,937 -50.0 2,560 5 1,382 108,456,233 Sony
9 Gamer 3,293,055 9,156,057 -64.0 2,502 2 1,316 16,261,653 Lionsgate
10 Julie & Julia 3,156,316 5,324,583 -40.7 2,342 6 1,348 85,216,398 Sony
11 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra 2,455,620 5,175,113 -52.5 2,120 6 1,158 144,200,266 Paramount
12 The Time Traveler's Wife 2,307,017 4,326,787 -46.7 2,228 5 1,035 59,035,745 Warner Bros.
13 Extract 2,163,337 4,340,108 -50.2 1,614 2 1,340 8,601,746 Miramax
14 Halloween II 2,114,486 5,745,206 -63.2 2,350 3 900 30,094,379 Weinstein Co.
15 Shorts 1,211,156 2,734,938 -55.7 1,701 4 712 19,716,511 Warner Bros.
16 (500) Days of Summer 1,174,165 1,850,256 -36.5 790 9 1,486 30,001,366 Fox Searchlight
17 G-Force 1,015,865 1,999,582 -49.2 965 8 1,053 116,715,916 Buena Vista
18 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 908,482 1,828,140 -50.3 744 9 1,221 298,844,700 Warner Bros.
19 The Hangover 709,225 1,222,045 -42.0 564 15 1,257 273,136,280 Warner Bros.
20 The September Issue 693,862 146,067 375.0 111 3 6,251 1,266,000 Roadside Attr.
Top 5 $ 51,488,468 $ 51,472,484 0.0
Top 10 71,451,514 76,384,281 -6.5
Top 20 86,204,729 91,257,418 -5.5
Top 20 vs. 2008 86,204,729 94,862,588 -9.1

Last Updated: September 14, 2009 at 4:00PM ET