Two underdog movies sit atop the box office as of Friday and its causing all smiles at Sony Pictures.
The under $25 million budgeted horror comedy “Zombieland” did what “Jennifer’s Body” and “Sorority Row” failed at by opening to No. 1 with a strong $9.4 million on Friday. Stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigal Breslin are hardly names that open movies these days, but the flick’s strong marketing campaign hit a nerve and the great word of mouth and reviews didn’t hurt either. The film should play strong though the weekend and end up with more than it cost with $25 million plus by Sunday.
Dropping only 34%, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” continues to win over audiences and came in at No. 2 with another $3.4 million. If it gets the expected Satuday matinee jump it could enjoy $14 million for the weekend and a new cume of $80 million. This means $l00 million is clearly in its reach and would make it the first Sony Animation release to hit that mark. It also puts the well-reviewed film in the middle of the Oscar race for best animated feature which has suddenly become very competitive this year (let’s hope they can qualify five nominees instead of the defacto three).
What makes “Cloudy’s” accomplishment even more significant is it lost a substantial number of lucrative 3-D screens to the “Toy Story”/”Toy Story 2” 3-D double feature. The Pixar re-release had a pleasant $3.2 million on Friday and could finish with $10-12 million by the end of the weekend. Pretty impressive when you consider the running time. “Toy Story 3” hits theaters next summer.
Among other new releases, Ricky Gervais’ “The Invention of Lying” did $2.5 million on Friday, but that was only in 1,700 theaters (half of “Zombieland) and good enough for fourth place. “Invention’s” estimated $9 million weekend. For comparison, Gervais last comedy, “Ghost Town,” made $13 million total. So, while not a slam dunk, it’s a big improvement and shows Gervais has an audience on the big screen.
Faring more disappointingly was Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut “Whip It.” Fox Searchlight gave it their all in the marketing campaign for the film, but something didn’t click with audiences. The comedy played in the same number of theaters as “Lying,” but made $1 million less on Friday for a $1.6 million debut. Even with a strong preview last weekend and positive reviews, a big audience didn’t turn out for Ellen Page’s second leading role since “Juno.” Searchlight will do a lot of second guessing on this one, but opening on a crowded weekend of comedies appealing to women may have been their biggest mistake.
Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” expanded to 900 plus runs on Friday and had a very strong $1.5 million for what could be a $5.5 million weekend. Depending on word of mouth, Moore’s latest documentary may not reach the $20 million plus heights of “Bowling for Columbine” or “Sicko,” but anything over $10 million would still be impressive for a political doc in 2009.
Look for final results Sunday on HitFix.