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Weekend Report: Moviegoers Feast on ‘Meatballs,’ Slim Pickings for ‘Jennifer’

by Brandon Gray
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
 

 
September 21, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs landed with a sunny $30.3 million and led the weekend as a whole to a 14 percent bump over the same timeframe last year. The other new releases, however, weren't pretty, especially Jennifer's Body, which had an advertising campaign that made the mistake of going gaga for its hyped actress.

Storming approximately 4,500 screens at 3,119 sites, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs served up the highest-grossing September animation debut on record, topping Sony Pictures stable mate Open Season. Nearly $18 million of Cloudy's opening was from 3D presentations at 1,828 sites. Of the 3D presentations, 127 were in IMAX and they accounted for $2.4 million of the gross. While Cloudy paled compared to recent 3D pictures like Up and Monsters Vs. Aliens, its debut was a bit higher than Bolt and Meet the Robinsons.

Due to the higher ticket prices of 3D and IMAX, Cloudy had a smaller audience than regular movies that open to $30 million, and its estimated attendance was actually comparable to Open Season. In the marketing, Cloudy was presented as a fun romp, fueled by the visual wonder of giant food falling from the sky, but it lacked the story elements to play in the league of Pixar or DreamWorks Animation. Sony's exit polling indicated that 79 percent of the audience was parents and their children and 21 percent was general moviegoers 12 years old and up.

In second place, The Informant! tapped into a modest $10.5 million at 2,505 sites. Pitched as a bumbling whistleblower comedy featuring Matt Damon and as being akin to the Ocean's Eleven movies, it sold slightly fewer tickets than Michael Clayton did in its first nationwide weekend. Distributor Warner Bros.' research showed that the audience was 72 percent over 30 years of age and older and split evenly between the genders.

Love Happens also appealed to adults and drew a mediocre $8.1 million at 1,898 sites, which wasn't terrible given its mild-mannered (yet plentiful) advertising and generic title. Distributor Universal Pictures reported an audience composition of 71 percent 30 years of age and older and 78 percent female for the romantic comedy-drama featuring Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston, who is a draw in this type of movie.

The biggest bust of the weekend was Jennifer's Body, which mustered a skimpy $6.9 million at 2,702 sites. That's relatively worse than Sorority Row last weekend, given its super-saturation level of hype and marketing. Most similar movies that disappointed in the past had greater attendance on their opening weekends, including Cursed, The Rage: Carrie 2 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As those pictures and many others have shown, horror comedy is a tough sell at the box office, giving Jennifer's Body an uphill battle to find a theatrical audience from its inception.

Megan Fox in Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body's advertising campaign exacerbated the situation by pinning its hopes almost entirely on Megan Fox, an actress who was a small cog in the Transformers machine, at the expense of story or more relatable elements. Ads could have appealed more to females, who have been known to drive horror business, through the picture's Mean Girls themes or the character played by Amanda Seyfried, who was minimized. What's more, if Megan Fox is such a fantasy for males, how attractive is it to them to see her as a man-eating demon? Besides, they can get their fix from pictures on the Internet. According to distributor 20th Century Fox, 70 percent of the audience was under 25 years old and 51 percent was female.

Among holdovers, Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself took a typical Tyler Perry slide, down 58 percent to $9.9 million for $37.7 million in ten days. 9 had 399 theaters added to its run for a total of 2,060, yet it still tumbled 48 percent to $5.6 million, lifting its tally to $22.9 million in 12 days.

Sorority Row had a decent hold as far as horror movies go, off 51 percent, but it still only grossed $2.5 million for $8.9 million in ten days. It held better than the other flop thriller from last weekend, Whiteout, which plummeted 57 percent to $2.1 million for an $8.6 million tally.

Making $3.8 million for a $110.1 million 31-day haul, Inglourious Basterds surpassed Pulp Fiction to become Quentin Tarantino's highest-grossing movie, but it will never reach that picture's level of attendance.

Last Weekend
Tyler Perry 'Can Do' Good at the Box Office

This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2008 - 'Lakeview Terrace' Tops Quiet Weekend
• 2007 - 'Resident Evil' Infects Top Spot
• 2006 - 'Jackass' Slams Into Top Spot
• 2005 - 'Flightplan,' 'Corpse' Give Rise to Lively Weekend

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