Jennifer's Body Crushed by 3-D Meatballs
By John Hamann
September 20, 2009
After two weeks of vacation for this writer, it's nice to come back and see the movie business moving in the form I want it to, with the "good" movie winning the weekend, and the "bad" movies getting crushed. Openers this weekend included the colorful Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, the 3-D kids' flick from Sony; Jennifer's Body, a horror flick starring vamp tramp Megan Fox; The Informant!, a departure for Matt Damon; and Love Happens, the critically eviscerated romance with Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart. While the cover was not blown off the box office, it was a still a decent movie-going weekend, considering it is the month of September.
Over the previous two frames, we've seen seven new releases, with four more coming this weekend. Of those previous seven, only two opened to more than $10 million (I Can Do Bad All By Myself and All About Steve). This weekend is similar, with two above $10 million and two well back of the pack. September is an undeniably slow month; the biggest weekend ever for the ninth month came seven years ago in the form of Sweet Home Alabama, which opened to $35.6 million all those years ago. Over history, September has only produced 20 titles that have opened above $20 million (there's 127 $20 million plus films that opened in July), and only three $30 million plus openers. Expectations should be lowered over the month of September, to say the least.
Our number one film this weekend breaks into the upper-echelons of September box office history, including that $30 million barrier - just by a nose. That movie is Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, the new 3-D kids' flick from Sony. With the 3-D pull, and being based on a popular kids book, Cloudy earned $30.1 million from an overall venue count of 3,118, and 1,828 of those being 3-D screens. That's the largest ever count of 3-D screens, which means 59% of Cloudy's showings charged an extra 15% to get in the door. While this opening may not knock your socks off, remember that the previous biggest kid flick debut in September was Open Season, which took in $23.6 million during the weekend September 29, 2006. It is followed by Secondhand Lions, which opened to only $12.1 million in September 2003 (I don't count The Corpse Bride). September is back-to-school month, but until now it was not considered a back-to-the-movies month for kids. The demographic was certainly under-served, as the last Harry Potter flick and Ponyo both earned less than a million last weekend at the box office. Will this start a new trend of releasing kids movies in September? It might, but absolutely would have if Meatballs had opened another $10 million higher.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs opened exactly where tracking was expecting it to, between $25 and $30 million, so is this a success for Sony? Absolutely. 3-D releases have a tendency to show excellent legs, if they have enough time to earn in those 3-D venues, before the next flavor of the month comes along. Meatballs' next 3-D competition comes in the form of the Toy Story movies, which are being re-released in 3-D on October 2nd. With what should be good word-of-mouth coming out of Meatballs (it was 86% fresh at RottenTomatoes, and while kids don't read reviews, most of the notices talk about how kid and parent friendly this one is), I'm looking for a good hold next weekend. Cloudy cost Sony $100 million to make, so it will need an opening-weekend-to-finish multiplier approaching 4.0, and a good haul overseas (Sony retained worldwide rights) to make this one a winner, at least financially.