Sony’s “Zombieland” and “Meatballs” satisfy at the box office

zombieland

“Zombieland” led our carnivorous movie weekend and met expectations almost on the nose with a horror-comedy-curse breaking estimate of $25 million on it’s opening weekend, thereby breaking the back of one of the most irritating box office canards of recent times. Another misunderstanding being promulgated by Nikki Finke, who is back with all vitriol-guns blazing this weekend, is that star Woody Harrelson was box office poison, but the “zom-com” was so appealing it did well anyway. Personally, I have a hard time with the whole notion of once popular stars becoming antithetical to good box office, but that’s a complicated rant for another day.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
The #2 spot went to “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” which showed some really meaty legs and dropped a terrific 33% in its third weekend with an estimated $16.7 million, says Andrew Stewart of Variety and everyone else. Once again, the only sure thing in Hollywood is a family film that parents enjoy watching themselves, and 3-D, at least for the time being, is a proven deal-sweetener for the right kind of movie. By the way, both “Zombieland” and “Meatballs” are from Sony, which means there’ll be delight at the old MGM lot in Culver City tomorrow.

And, as if the prove my point about family films and 3-D, this weekend’s third top grosser was the Disney/Pixar double-feature 3-D retreads of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.” Not at all surprisingly, the combination of the two beloved animated features was an appealing entertainment value to parents and fun for kids, getting a very solid $12.5 million in just under 1800 theaters. It’s more impressive when you consider that the entire package runs 174 minutes, plus trailers. Considering the limited number of 3-D screens, both “Toy Story” and “Meatballs” doing so well is an interesting development.

After that, we have a bit of divergence from what I wrote in my preview post, in that the #4 film is the Ricky Gervais vehicle from Warners, “The Invention of Lying.” It brought in a modest — but possibly sufficient, given the budget — estimated $7.4 million via just slightly over 1700 screens. I’m going to guess that the growing cult of comedy demigod Gervais plus the film’s easy-to-grasp and inherently amusing premise, as well as the strong and well known supporting cast, gave it enough of a bump to beat the crowded low-end competition this weekend. Beaten by a pug nose was the much higher budgeted ($80 million) Bruce Willis science-fiction film “Surrogates,” with somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.3 million.

Ellen Page and Juliette Lewis in The well-reviewed and, you’d think, appealing sports comedy, “Whip It” disappointed with a mere $4.85 million estimated despite a strong cast led by Ellen Page, and Drew Barrymore’s involvement as both director and cast member. However, the studio is hoping that this underdog will benefit from word of mouth and ultimately win the big game with an unexpected surge. Who doesn’t love an underdog?

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“Cloudy” with a certainty of poor news for new releases

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Never bet against family entertainment, especially when it’s in 3-D and generating strong word of mouth. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” declined a very small 19% and collected an estimated $24.6 million over the weekend, which puts it at a $60 million “cume” or thereabouts according to Bruce McNary of Variety. Not bad.

I’m not one one bit surprised that the new Bruce Willis science-fiction tale, “Surrogates,” didn’t get the over-fluffed $20+ million that was expected, despite the help of costar Radha Mitchell. The movie hasn’t generated much excitement, is getting “meh” to bad reviews, and the appeal of older stars like Willis just doesn’t seem to be that powerful at the box office these days.  Does Bruce Willis even register that much with people under thirty? If it wasn’t for the success of the last “Die Hard” flick, I think this would have done significantly less than the non-terrible estimated $15 million it actually netted for the #2 slot. On the other hand, the film cost $80 million. How much of that was Willis’s salary?

Fame

The remake of Alan Parker’s “Fame” got mostly bad reviews, and the box office wasn’t too exciting either with a mere $10 million estimated. Though the film apparently attracted a youngish audience — a possible reflection of the film being perceived as not very good since it’s a well known property to we mid-lifers — apparently most of them were taken up with other films. The week’s other major new release, the Dennis Quaid sci-fi horror entry, “Pandorum,” did a predictably awful estimated $4.4 million.

In more positive news, “The Informant!” held better than expected with roughly $6.9 million in the #4 spot and a mere 33% decline according to the Box Office Mojo chart. An interesting real life story, a funny trailer, an imaginative director, and more youngish star power may still count for something.

The week’s highest per screen average was documentary superstar Michael Moore’s latest, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” earning about $60,000 each in four theaters before going wide next week. The French language biopic, “Coco Before Chanel” starring Audrey Tautou (“Amelie”), earned a stylish estimated $35,000 average on five screens.

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Weekend box office? It’s anyone guess

Fame - 2009

I’m in the middle of some big stuff you’ll be seeing here before too long, so this is going to be an extremely short version of my usual long-winded pre-weekend box office previews.

Basically, this is a tricky weekend when it’s hard to see a clear box office favorite. It could be the remake of Alan Parker’s 1980 musical drama, “Fame“; it could be the Bruce Willis/Radha Mitchell virtual living science fiction flick “Surrogates” (a topic much on my mind as I work on a very long post about this movie); it could be a second #1 weekend for “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” It almost certainly won’t be a second sci-fi flick, a horror/space opera with Dennis Quaid that was withheld from critics, “Pandorum.” Dave McNary of Variety goes out on a limb to say that “Surrogates” will win the weekend with something in the low twenty millions, but jolly Carl DiOrio of THR is honestly equivocal while leaning on his imaginary car horn. He’s probably not wrong when he says there’s just an awful lot of material out there chasing a limited number of autumn filmgoers. We shall see.

  

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New York Comic-Con 2009: The Wrap-Up

You know you’re on the right bus for Comic-Con when a guy comes aboard wearing a Flash t-shirt…and he’s followed a guy toting two enormous bags in which to carry swag…and then that guy is followed by Darth Vader.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Lord Vader wasn’t actually on the bus with me, but he was most certainly present – and in various heights, weights, shapes, and sizes, no less – during the course of the New York Comic-Con, which took place at New York’s Javitz Center from February 6th through the 8th.

Our man Jason Zingale has been our resident San Diego Comic-Con attendee for the past couple of years, but Bullz-Eye was also in the house for last year’s NYCC, thanks to our man in New York, Jonathan Flax. (Granted, he’s often a quiet man, but he’s still there for us when we need him.) This year, however, I couldn’t resist the chance to take in Comic-Con for myself. The San Diego event takes place immediately after I’ve already spent two-and-a-half weeks in L.A. for the July TCA Press Tour, and by that point, I just can’t be away from my wife and daughter any longer; fortunately, the NYCC takes place long enough after the January TCA tour that I was able to feel comfortable heading out of town to attend. It was disappointing that I had to take in all of the sights, sounds, and events all by my lonesome, but lord knows there were plenty of other people with whom I was sharing the experience. I might’ve come by myself, but I was in no way alone.

Day 1:

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