“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.
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.
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?