Weekend Wrap-Up

Sony Dominates With Zombieland and Meatballs

By John Hamann

October 4, 2009

Aw, the poor zombies just need a ride.

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Finishing second is Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, our champion from the previous two weekends. Meatballs was forced to deal with some Disney trickery this weekend, as the Mouse House opened the Toy Story films in 3-D this weekend, which took away about 1,000 of the 3-D screens available. After a 17% drop last weekend, Meatballs still held well despite the competition, earning $16.7 million, and dropping a much more serious 33%. Despite the drop, Meatballs is still going to be a big success for the folks at Sony Animation. Meatballs has a gross so far of $82.4 million, and an overseas gross that is just getting started. It will be a $100 million domestic hit, against a production budget of $100 million.

The Toy Story double feature in 3-D managed to take down the number three spot this weekend with a gross of $12.5 million from only 1,745 venues. It had a venue average of $7,163. This release was obviously a good move for Disney – it slowed the progressive march of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, it revitalized a franchise that hasn't had a film in theatres since 1999, and provided a good advertisement for Toy Story 3, which is set to hit theatres in June 2010. The Toy Story double feature is only available in theatres for a two-week run -obviously, this release is not about a money, or at least not about money right now. It's about marketing - and this marketing has worked very well.


Fourth spot goes to The Invention of Lying, the new Liar Liar-type film from Ricky Gervais, who wrote and directed with Mathew Robinson. Starring Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill, The Invention of Lying had the casting clout to be a hit, but a premise that might have been a little less accessible than a Jim Carrey film. The Invention of Lying finished the weekend with a gross of $7.4 million from only 1,707 venues. It had a venue average of $4,306. This is a similar – but slightly improved – score from Ricky Gervais' last above-the-title role in the under-seen and really quite good Ghost Town, which opened to $5 million in September, 2008. Ghost Town unfortunately finished with a domestic take of only $13 million, but should have done much better, as it finished with a fresh rating of 85%. Lying finished with a just-fresh rating of 60%, so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out in the weekends to come.

Fifth goes to last weekend's number two film, Surrogates, the unfortunate miss with Bruce Willis. Surrogates earned $7.3 million in its second weekend, and expectedly falls 51%. After failing to impress last weekend, the writing was on the wall for this $80 million feature. Touchstone Pictures is going to have to hope for big bucks from overseas cinemas, as this one now has a total of $26.4 million and looks to finish with about $45 million.

Landing in sixth is Whip It!, the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore, who picked a grrl-power roller-derby flick as her first feature. The results were mixed but expected, as Whip It earned $4.9 million this weekend from a muted 1,720 venues. It had a venue average of $2,820. From Fox Searchlight, Whip It stars Ellen Page (Juno), and the production cost Searchlight only $15 million, so this one could still be in the black by the end of its run. The good news for Barrymore and Page is that critics liked it a lot, with RottenTomaotes recording a fantastic score of 82% fresh, with only 19 rotten reviews out of a possible 104. Will an expansion with good word-of-mouth turn this one into a hit? Highly doubtful, but at least decent legs should follow.

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