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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson

Posted: September 20, 2009 05:45 PM

Weekend Box Office in Review: Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs Wins as Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer's Body Flop

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The most talked about movie is not the number one movie of the weekend. The number one movie is (shocker ...) a well-reviewed 3D animated family adventure based on a classic childrens' book. Anyone who didn't see that coming... Anyway, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs opened to $30 million, a whopping 3.7x multiplier. The surprisingly well-reviewed film had 59% of its theaters in the 3D format, so most of its money was accumulated accordingly. It also did about 8% of its business in IMAX theaters. This is Sony's highest opening for an animated film, although the difference between this and the $23 million opening of Open Season can pretty much be chalked up to general inflation and the 15% 3D ticket uptick. Still, this is the third-biggest September opening weekend and only the fourth to reach $30 million. Unless something goes awry, this should be Sony's first $100 million+ domestic animated film. All in all, a solid result for an allegedly quite-clever family film.

Number two went to Steven Soderbergh's The Informant!. This $22-million Warner Bros cheapie opened with $10.5 million, or a rare live-action multiplier of 2.9x. In other words, this played like an old-fashioned grown-ups movie, which is what it was. This is actually Soderbergh's biggest opening weekend outside of the Ocean's trilogy. Word of mouth is allegedly lousy, which is somewhat surprising as the quirky and offbeat trailer did an accurate job of selling this offbeat and exquisitely cast character-driven comedy. Still, it's a good opening and this will be a good investment for Warner, and a promising start for the beleaguered Soderbergh (Che parts 1 and 2 and The Girlfriend Experience have all tanked). This is also a strong showing of Matt Damon's star power, as this is as far from the Bourne trilogy as you can get. Like George Clooney, he can take movies that theoretically wouldn't have opened at all and get them to a $10 million start. Anyway, I can't call the final gross on this until next weekend, but Matt Damon has moved that much closer to a deserved Oscar nomination.

Third place goes to Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, which plummets the usual Perry 55%+ in weekend two. Still, the $13 million picture has already amassed over $37 million, outgrossing The Family That Preys and Daddy's Little Girls in just ten days. Expect around $50 million for a final total. The allegedly terrible Universal acquisition Love Happens opened with just $8.4 million on 1898 screens. On the plus side, Universal's exposure was about $8 million, so they'll do just fine (much of the $18 million production budget was recouped via foreign sales). On the other hand, this is not a particularly great showing for Jennifer Aniston in a genre that she has put in quite a bit of time into. And, sorry Aaron Eckhart, this was a picture that Aniston was counted on to sell. Again, this is a mid-level debut for a romantic drama (it sounds like a variation on the Christian Slater stinker Bed of Roses), but it just shows that most 'stars' cannot get people into a theater to see something that they otherwise would have had no interest in (see below for more on that). Interestingly enough, the gender split for this one was a whopping 78% female.
Oh boy... this is where it gets interesting. Predicting by some to break out and possibly challenge Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs for number 01 (was never gonna happen), Jennifer's Body debuted with just $6.8 million. Alas, Fox completely failed to sell this as a horror film directed by, written by, and starring women. They didn't sell women on any of the alleged feminist themes of the picture, or the heroic role of rising star Amanda Seyfried. Screen Gems would have sold the hell out of the female angles on this picture (even Lionsgate would have done a better job). Thus, by ignoring the women, Fox was more or less completely depending on horny teen boys to spend $11 to see a movie for the sole purpose of ogling an actress who they could stare at online free of charge. Creepy fact - I googled 'Jennifer's Body' for a picture for this article, and the first page was nothing but semi-nude paparazzi shots that were stolen off the set (hence my use of the same photos that everyone else used). I've said this a thousand times and it's still true today. In general, men will not see a movie that they are otherwise uninterested in just because the girl in it is cute or hot. On the other hand, many women will do this. It's why James Van Der Beek and Freddie Prinze Jr. had big hits in the spring of 1999 (Varsity Blues and She's All That) while Sarah Michelle Gellar's vehicle (Simply Irresistible) flopped. I thought Megan Fox may have been an exception, especially considering the saturation-level PR that she got in the run-up to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. But I was wrong.

Regardless of the movie's quality (I have not seen it), this debut saddens me for two reasons. First of all, this gives the hen-peckers the chance to smack their hands together in glee and pronounce the deaths of both Megan Fox and Diablo Cody after one mediocre debut. I'm someone who has defended Fox's refreshingly candid interviews from misogynistic attacks. We talk about Fox and most Hollywood actresses in purely prurient terms, but when she talks about sex or the business of sex appeal in Hollywood, she's a brainless whore. Point being, for the sake of righteous indignation, I was kind of hoping she'd pull out a winner (she could still kick ass on SNL next weekend). Never mind that the film cost just $13 million and will probably be profitable in the end. Never mind that it was mismarketed by Fox and had a campaign that alienated the very females that it was aimed at (it was the last Fox Atomic release, so 20th Century Fox probably didn't give two craps about it). This relative failure will be placed squarely at the feet of an untested gossip magnet (a role that she apparently does not want) and a flavor of the month screenwriter that others have been itching to take down ever since the release of Juno two years ago. The other reason this saddens me is that it is yet another example of an original horror film flopping while terrible remakes (Friday the 13th) and atrocious sequels (The Final Destination -- now at $64 million) hit paydirt. And that's to say nothing of the worthwhile horror films like From Within or Midnight Movie that go straight to DVD. Between Jennifer's Body and Drag Me To Hell, what exactly is the incentive to actually create original horror films in today's marketplace?

Anyway, there isn't much else to discuss for the weekend. The horror flops from last weekend plunged again in weekend two and neither will hit $15 million (Sorority Row cost $12.5 million while Whiteout cost $35 million). The animated 9 dropped 50% and will struggle to equal its $30 million budget in domestic grosses (it'll do just fine on DVD). Inglourious Basterds crossed $109.9 million, eclipsing Pulp Fiction ($107.5 million) as Quentin Tarantino's highest grosser. Also, in its fifth weekend, it has nearly tied the $111 million total of District 9, which is in its sixth weekend. And that's all the news that is fit to print. Join us next weekend when Bruce Willis returns to sci-fi with Jonathan Mostow's The Surrogates. Also laugh as MGM launches its Fame remake only to watch American stay home and watch Glee instead. And the horror movie with the flesh-ripping poster, Pandorum, opens wide courtesy of Overture Films. But the most interesting action may be in super-limited release, as Paramount debuts the allegedly terrifying Paranormal Activity on twelve screens nationwide while Overture Films debuts Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story on just four screens.

As always, for more of this madness, including the shocking date change of Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, go to Mendelson's Memos.

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