Looking to break into a 3D animated market dominated by DreamWorks and Disney/Pixar, Sony took a big step this weekend.
Its kiddie-book adaptation "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" opened to $30.1 million, according to studio figures.
Benefitting from a wide-open kids and family market — no big CGI picture had premiered since Disney’s "G-Force" way back in the mid-summer — the box office take was better than expected for a film that was projected to start out in the mid-20s.
Voice starring Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan and Mr. T, "Meatballs" garnered about $18 million of its total revenue from 1,828 3D locations, 127 of which were IMAX screens.
“The first time I saw that trailer play earlier in the summer, I kind of went, ‘Hello, that works!’” said a distribution executive for a rival studio.
While Sony got on the animation board with a conspicuous start, several other studios saw modest openings that adhered to conservative business strategies.
Prime example: Coming in second with a $10.5 opening was Warner’s "The Informant!," a Steven Soderbergh quirky adaptation of Kurt Eichenwald’s corporate whistle-blower novel. Starring Matt Damon, the film was projected to at least break the low teens.
Fortunately for Warner, however, the movie was budgeted at only $21 million, according to Warner distribution president Dan Fellman, and the film played well in metropolitan markets “where people may have read the book and the reviews.
“Overall, this was a good weekend for us,” he said. “This film will be profitable.”
Also opening this weekend, Universal’s "Love Happens" took in $8.5 million, meeting expectations for a romantic drama modestly budgeted at $18 million. Like Damon, stars Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart both took pay cuts for the project, which was bankrolled by advanced foreign sales. Universal also enlisted Relativity Media as a financing partner.
“The audience was female, as we expected, they came for Jennifer Aniston, as we expected, and the cost was mitigated by foreign distribution and a partnership,” said Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco. “We knew what we had here.”
After a tough summer punctuated by several high-profile money-losing films, Universal has subtly established a bit of momentum of late. It also partnered with Weinstein on Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” which is now up to $110 million domestically and closing in on $100 internationally.
“Every studio has its day under the clouds – that’s behind us,” Rocco added. “ ‘Love Happens’ was a very thoughtfully managed, profitable film.”
Right behind "Love Happens" in fifth place over the weekend, Fox’s tongue-in-cheek horror film "Jennifer’s Body" yielded only $6.8 million — a disappointing opening for a film written by "Juno’s" Diablo Cody and starring "Transformers’" Megan Fox.
As far as incumbents go, last week’s box-office champ, “Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself” finished third, adding another $10 million and bringing its two-week total to $37.9 million.
Overall, however, a rebound weekend for the box-office — it was up 10 percent over last week at 95.4 million, according to studio figures — rode on the back of “Cloudy and a Chance of Meatballs,” the first film from Sony Pictures Animation under the leadership of Hannah Minghella and Bob Osher and the first Sony animated title since 2007’s “Surf’s Up.”
In addition to its solid domestic premiere, “Meatballs” also opened No. 1 in every foreign market it was put in, including the U.K and Mexico.
Here’s how the top 10 at the box office shaped up, according to Hollywood.com:
1) Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (30.1M)
2) The Informant! ($10.5M)
3) Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad… ($10M)
4) Love Happens ($8.5M)
5) Jennifer’s Body ($6.8M)
6) 9 ($5.5M)
7) Inglourious Basterds (3.6M)
8) All About Steve ($3.4M)
9) Sorority Row ($2.5M)
10) The Final Destination ($2.4M)