Zombies Tear Into Box Office With $25M Weekend

Sony grabs top 2 slots, with “Cloudy” holding off rewrapped “Toy Story.”

Brains and meatballs were the weekend specials at the boxoffice.

Sony’s "Zombieland" lived to see the dawn of profitability, scoring $25 million for the weekend, according to studio figures.

Also from Sony, the 3D kids movie "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" still had plenty of spice in its third week with a projected $16.7 million weekend total that was good for second place.

Profitability for "Zombieland" was never in much doubt. Starring Woody Harrelson and directed by relative newcomer Ruben Fleischer, "Zombieland" was modestly priced at $23.6 million and came with a co-financier, Relativity Media, to share the risks.

A number of R-rated horror movies had tanked of late, including "Sorority Row, "Whiteout" and "Pandorum." Even Fox’s Diablo Cody-written "Jennifer’s Body," which also blended in the comedy, failed to move the bar. But with tracking predictions for "Zombieland" coming in as high as $30 millioin, Sony knew going in it didn’t have a dud on its hands.

"We knew we had something unique and that this cast had a lot of chemistry," said Rory Bruer, Sony president of worldwide distribution. "It’s an action buddy movie that just happens to have a lot of zombies in it."


Speaking from the Hawaiian islands Sunday, Bruer definitely had reason to relax on a beach and chill, with "Cloudy" declining only 32 percent from its second week — after experiencing only a 19 percent drop-off last weekend. "Cloudy" succeeded in trumping Disney’s rerelease of the "Toy Story" films, even though the "Toy Story" double feature took away half of its 3D screens.


All told, "Cloudy," which costs Sony’s animation division about $100 million to produce, has taken in $82.4 million in three weeks of North American distribution, with the bulk of foreign grosses still to be counted.


"To lose half of your 3D screens, and the uptick in ticket prices that’s associated with that, and to still drop only 33 percent, that’s an incredible hold," Bruer said. "People are committed to seeing this movie whether it’s in 3D or not."


For its part, Disney rereleased 1995’s "Toy Story" and 1999’s "Toy Story 2" exclusively as a 3D double-feature playing at 1,745 appropriately equipped locations. Clocking in at a kiddie-attention-span-testing two hours, 53 minutes combined, the double bill provided Disney only a limited number of daily runs and yielded the studio a projected $12.5 million for the weekend.


Rival studio estimates peg the conversion costs for both films at somewhere between $10 million-$16 million, with marketing costs for the rerelease running about $30 million.


However, as one rival studio distribution official noted, with "Toy Story 3" coming next year, the recommission served to increase awareness regarding a franchise that had been out of theaters for a decade.


"I think it was kind of a way to promote the new film," said the exec. "And I think Disney will be pleased with the result."


Among other films opening this weekend, Warner’s "The Invention of Lying," a comedy written by, directed by and starring Ricky Gervais, premiered to $7.4 million, about on par with expectations for a film that was budgeted at under $20 million and co-financed with Media Rights Capital.


Fox Searchlight’s "Whip It," meanwhile, opened to $4.9 million at only 1,720 locations. Budgeted at $15 million and directed by Drew Barrymore, Fox has hopes for Academy Award consideration for the roller derby-themed film as well as longer play.


Also opening wide this weekend with Oscar hopes of its own at 962 locations, Michael Moore’s latest documentary, the Overture Films-distributed "Capitalism: A Love Story," took in $4.6 million, rendering it the filmmaker’s second biggest opening behind 2004’s "Fahrenheit 9/11."


"It’s a solid opening and people liked the movie," said Kyle Davies, Overture’s executive vice president of theatrical distribution, referencing "Capitalism’s" "A" Cinemascore. "We’re off to the races."


"Capitalism" will stand pat at its 962 locales next weekend, with Overture mulling further expansion on Oct. 16.


"Michael’s movies typically play much longer than the typical two-week story you have with most films."


That typical two-week story will not end happily for Disney’s adult-targeted action-thriller "Surrogates," with the Bruce Willis movie finishing in fifth place this weekend with $7.3 million.


Produced by Disney’s Touchstone at a cost of about $80 million, the movie has grossed just $26.3 million in North America after two weeks.

Paramount, meanwhile, was sending out boxoffice numbers on its midnight movie project "Paranormal Activity." The low-budget haunted-house movie sold out all of its Thursday through Saturday midnight screenings in 33-cities, earning a per screen average of $16,000, for a total estimated gross of $535,000.

Paramount plans to go to 40 or more cities with "Paranormal Activity" on Friday, adding screenings throughout the day.

Here’s a look at how the top 10 fared based on projected three-day weekend totals:

Zombieland ($25 million)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ($16.7 mil)

Toy Story 1 and 2
($12.5 mil)

The Invention of Lying ($7.4 mil)

Surrogates ($7.3 mil)

Whip It ($4.9 mil)

Fame ($4.8 mil)

Capitalism: A Love Story
($4.6 mil)

The Informant!
($3.8 mil)

Love Happens
($2.8 mil)