Weekend Box Office (September 25 - 27, 2009)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Turning into the sleeper hit of the fall, Sony's blockbuster 3D toon Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs easily ruled the North American box office posting the smallest sophomore decline of any number one opener this year. Moviegoers were once again unimpressed with the new films that Hollywood studios tried to push on them with the Bruce Willis sci-fi pic Surrogates leading the pack with a sluggish debut in second place. The dance remake Fame bowed in third to mild numbers while the umpteenth horror film in recent weeks Pandorum failed to scare up much business.

Sliding by an incredibly low 17%, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs showed remarkable strength in first place grossing $25M in its second weekend in theaters, according to final studio figures. Sensational word-of-mouth and a lack of competing family films or comedies helped the Sony release boost its ten-day tally to a solid $60.5M. The only number one opener in 2009 to match this second weekend hold was Liam Neeson's Taken which also slipped by 17% in early February. The revenge thriller banked $53.6M in its first ten days before continuing its leggy run which extended to an astonishing $145M final.

Cloudy also delivered the best sophomore weekend gross ever for any September release. The road ahead still looks bright and sunny for the animated food flick. Disney will provide some competition this Friday with its double feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3D, but it's still unclear how big of a turnout should be expected. The next major film aimed at kids doesn't open until October 16 when Warner Bros. unleashes Where the Wild Things Are. A domestic cume of $150M or more could be possible for Meatballs making it Sony's top-grossing title of the year.

Bruce Willis saw mediocre results for his new $80M-budgeted action film Surrogates which debuted in second place with $14.9M. Averaging $5,050 from 2,951 locations, the PG-13 film about FBI agents in the future hunting down a new type of killer played to an older male audience. Studio data from Buena Vista showed that 58% of the crowd was male and 54% was over 25 - not surprising for a Willis actioner. The not-so-impressive domestic bow puts more pressure on the overseas starpower of Willis to kick in and generate cash in the weeks ahead.

The dance remake Fame didn't win over too many fans opening in third with $10M for a mild $3,234 average from 3,096 theaters. The PG-rated update on the 1980 classic hit played primarily to young women as studio research showed that a whopping 78% of the audience was female and 55% was under 25. Fame marked the first release from MGM all year. The troubled studio last hit the multiplexes in December with the Tom Cruise pic Valkyrie which performed better than expected with $83.1M. The marketplace had few choices for young women, but Fame failed to generate enough excitement to come close to recent teen-skewing dance hits like Step Up and Stomp the Yard which both opened to more than $20M. Luckily with its low $18M production cost, the pic should fare well after factoring in foreign sales and home video revenue.

Matt Damon's The Informant! held up well in its second weekend dipping only 37% to $6.6M and raised its cume to $20.7M in ten days. Look for a $40M final for the Warner Bros. release. Lionsgate followed with I Can Do Bad All By Myself which dropped 52% to $4.8M and $44.6M total.

Overture's Pandorum was the latest horror flick to be rejected by moviegoers. The R-rated space thriller bowed to just $4.4M and averaged a dismal $1,765 from 2,506 locations. Distributors chose to program six scary movies into a 30-day period and are now finding out the hard way that this was a bad idea. Over the previous two weekends, the films Sorority Row, Whiteout, and Jennifer's Body opened to less than $7M each with pitiful averages below $2,600.

The Jennifer Aniston pic Love Happens dropped a moderate 47% to $4.3M in its second date putting Universal's sum at $14.7M after ten days. A $25M final could result for the $18M production. Saturday Night Live host Megan Fox suffered a 47% fall for Jennifer's Body which grossed $3.7M in its second weekend for a ten-day tally of only $12.5M. Look for the $16M-budgeted fright flick to end with $18-20M.

The sci-fi toon 9 grossed $3M, down 47%, for a $27.2M cume. Rounding out the top ten was Inglourious Basterds which slipped only 30% to $2.7M giving The Weinstein Co. $114.4M to date.

Touring the talk show circuit certainly helped Michael Moore accumulate lots of wealth as his newest documentary Capitalism: A Love Story debuted in limited release in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles but grossed a sensational $231,964 for a stunning $57,991 average per location. With multiple prints, the film is showing on a total of 11 screens in the four locations. The five-day cume since the Wednesday bow is $298,550. Capitalism more than doubled the $26,144 opening weekend average of Moore's Oscar-winning doc Bowling for Columbine which platformed in eight locations in NY and LA in October 2002.

The polarizing filmmaker's last pic Sicko debuted in just one Manhattan location with $68,969 in its first weekend so Love Story's wider launch and nearly equal average shows that audiences are still drawn to Moore's unique brand of infotainment. Capitalism takes a look at the current economic crisis and earned mostly positive reviews. Overture will expand the R-rated film nationally on Friday into 1,000 playdates.

Fox saw encouraging results from its Saturday sneak previews of the Drew Barrymore-directed roller derby film Whip It which took place nationwide in 502 theaters. Shows were at two-thirds capacity on average with many reported sold out shows too. The sneaks primarily reached young women in the 15-35 age range. Whip It debuts this Friday in over 2,100 locations as one of five wide openers in what should be a very crowded frame.

The top ten films grossed $79.4M which was down 3% from last year when Eagle Eye opened in the top spot with $29.2M; but up 9% from 2007 when The Game Plan debuted at number one with $23M.

Compared to projections, Surrogates, Fame, and Pandorum all debuted a few notches below my respective forecasts of $19M, $13M, and $7M.

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

For a review of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and DVD reviews of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Hero, and The Big Bang Theory visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Zombieland, Whip It, The Invention of Lying, and Toy Story/Toy Story 2 all open.

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

# Title Sep 25 - 27 Sep 18 - 20 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs $ 25,038,803 $ 30,304,648 -17.4 3,119 2 $ 8,028 $ 60,474,555 Sony
2 Surrogates 14,902,692 2,951 1 5,050 14,902,692 Buena Vista
3 Fame 10,011,682 3,096 1 3,234 10,011,682 MGM
4 The Informant! 6,624,085 10,464,314 -36.7 2,505 2 2,644 20,700,946 Warner Bros.
5 I Can Do Bad All By Myself 4,759,833 9,877,436 -51.8 2,120 3 2,245 44,552,477 Lionsgate
6 Pandorum 4,424,126 2,506 1 1,765 4,424,126 Overture
7 Love Happens 4,307,980 8,057,010 -46.5 1,898 2 2,270 14,708,710 Universal
8 Jennifer's Body 3,664,559 6,868,397 -46.6 2,738 2 1,338 12,470,373 Fox
9 9 2,959,231 5,563,134 -46.8 2,025 3 1,461 27,227,811 Focus
10 Inglourious Basterds 2,683,198 3,818,142 -29.7 1,960 6 1,369 114,420,733 Weinstein Co.
11 All About Steve 2,285,666 3,373,212 -32.2 1,965 4 1,163 29,939,811 Fox
12 The Final Destination 1,376,614 2,388,473 -42.4 1,175 5 1,172 64,603,402 Warner Bros.
13 Julie & Julia 1,263,283 1,914,186 -34.0 1,328 8 951 90,600,766 Sony
14 Sorority Row 1,083,874 2,499,758 -56.6 1,523 3 712 10,719,202 Summit
15 District 9 1,082,176 1,913,150 -43.4 925 7 1,170 113,522,260 Sony
16 G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra 845,390 1,377,943 -38.6 895 8 945 147,415,055 Paramount
17 Bright Star 671,895 189,703 254.2 130 2 5,168 962,153 Apparition
18 The Time Traveler's Wife 566,137 1,029,388 -45.0 810 7 699 61,748,749 Warner Bros.
19 Gamer 550,353 1,413,921 -61.1 780 4 706 20,145,136 Lionsgate
20 The Hangover 423,193 467,373 -9.5 355 17 1,192 274,452,813 Warner Bros.
Top 5 $ 61,337,095 $ 65,571,805 -6.5
Top 10 79,376,189 83,214,524 -4.6
Top 20 89,524,770 95,538,299 -6.3
Top 20 vs. 2008 89,524,770 95,467,591 -6.2

Last Updated: September 28, 2009 at 4:20PM ET