Not a lot of big surprises at this weekend’s box office. “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” apparently did even better than some expected in the “flyover” or “heartland” areas (this is supposedly where “real Americans live,” which is nice to know as a coastal fictitious American). As per the trades, it made an estimated $56.2 million this weekend, several million better than $45-50 million number I repeated last time.

For those of us (me!) seeking a cloud in Paramount’s silver lining, Nikki Finke does offer that the studio actually predicted a round $60 million earlier and that the film’s $175 million budget is just a tad on the high side. (That’s a minimum of 17 smallish budget studio films that could have been made for the same price tag.)

Finke has some doubts that the movie will hit $300 million or be profitable all on its own, though merchandising here is obviously a possible financial bonanza for toy maker Hasbro. She also has some doubts about the foreign market in light of sentiment abroad opposed to U.S. militarism. It might be tempting to say then, that Barack Obama is the best friend Paramount has here, but Finke points out that “G.I. Joe” came in at #2 in Australia, once the third most enthusiastic member of “the coalition of the willing” under Bush-esque rightwinger John Howard. She also expects it to be blown out of the water by the apparently entirely non-brainless “District 9” next weekend. I never thought I’d say this, but from Nikki Finke’s mouth to God’s ears.

Meryl Streep and Stanley TucciMeanwhile, the culinographic “Julie and Julia” also performed pretty much precisely according to expectation and pulled in a satisfactorily satiating estimate of $20.1. According to a “rival exec” Finke quotes, the dual memoir dramedy had one of the oldest demographics he or she had ever seen, which I guess makes sense considering you have to be over a certain age to have watched Julia Child regularly on television. Finke also says the audience was almost exclusively female, despite the fact that we all like food that tastes good. In any case, those whose dating preferences includes middle-aged and older women now know their next film-going destination.

The other new release, the possible future cult flick (IMO, anyhow), “A Perfect Getaway” also hit its very low expectations with $5.8 million. However, of more significance for box office trendspotters is the disappointing performance of Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” with an estimated $7.9 million. Nikki Finke calculates it at 72% drop, which is massive, and makes it seems as if audiences felt they were bait-and-switched to some degree. It seems that no amount of marketing will convince some that a movie with a huge comedy star in the lead is anything other than a huge comedy. I can’t confirm the quote online, but I believe the great screwball mastermind, Preston Sturges, often said words to the effect that if the audience was “forming their mouths” for ice cream, you’d better not be giving them escargot.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zoey DeschanelAs per Finke and Box Office Mojo, this summer’s possible comedy sleeper, “(500) Days of Summer” increased its theater count to 817 this weekend and hit the #10 spot with $3,750,000 according to the estimates. That also gives it the third highest per-screen average with $4,559. I can confirm that it did well at my local plex as the relatively small theater I saw it in was all but sold out, much to my late-arriving seat-seeking annoyance. In contrast to Jason Zingale, however, I’m afraid I’m going to join the film’s backlash. It’s not that it’s a bad movie, it’s just not a particularly interesting one. Most of its jokes don’t really connect, and the final scene is just plain weak. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve never liked the Smiths.

On the other hand, I agree that the appeal of stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the lovely and talented Zooey Deschanel should not be underestimated; they make this okay, not-terribly funny trifle a bit more than bearable.  Any movie that lets Ms. Deschanel sing the now semi-obscure Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood hit, “Sugar Town” is at least worth a rental, I suppose.