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'District 9' lays down the law to men while 'Time Traveler's Wife' locks in women

August 16, 2009 |  9:43 am

DISTRICT9

Sony Pictures' "District 9," a relatively low-budget sci-fi take on apartheid, imprisoned moviegoers over the weekend, steamrolling past the competition on the way to a $36.9 million debut, much better than the initial tracking that had it opening in the mid-$20 million range in the U.S.

The independently financed "District 9," which had a budget of $30 million, was produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neill Blomkamp.  The quirky viral marketing campaign, which included posters for the movie all around major cities warning of alien activity, created a hype and mystery around "District 9" far in advance of its opening. The Saturday box office for "District 9" dropped only 10%, a sign that this one might have a reach beyond the so-called fanboy audience although for now that is who is primarily driving ticket sales. Sony said 64% of the audience for the R-rated "District 9" was male and 57% were over the age of 25.

"You could feel the ground moving," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures about the buzz for "District 9." Bruer expects "District 9" to expand beyond its male base in the days ahead.

"It absolutely will," Bruer predicted. "There is a tremendous amount of emotion in this film that women will embrace."

TIMETRAVELER The other major opening this weekend, Warner Bros.' "The Time Traveler's Wife" came in third place behind "District 9" and a fading "G.I. Joe" to take in $19.2 million, with an audience that was more than 70% women. Based on the bestselling book, the studio said it was very pleased with the performance of the Rachel McAdams-Eric Bana film, despite industry tracking earlier last week that had it performing in the mid-$20 million range.

"There is no reason to assume those numbers were realistic," said Dan Fellman, president of theatrical distribution for Warner Bros. "This is way above our expectations." He noted that the movie did better than other recent female-driven films including this summer's "My Sister's Keeper." Though "The Proposal" had a much stronger opening, Fellman countered that that was a more broad-based movie and not an accurate comparison. "We never had that in our sights," he said.

Paramount's "G.I. Joe" continued its slide after a strong opening. It took in $22.8 million for the weekend, which was good enough for second place but it dropped almost 60% from last weekend. Still, while interest is starting to fade, it will cross the $100 million domestic box office mark early this week.

Sony's "Julie & Julia" took in $12.4 million, off under 40% from its opening weekend, which is a good sign for the cooking comedy. "It's a very solid hold," Bruer said. 

Rounding out the top five was Disney's "G-Force," which took in $7 million, a 29% drop from last weekend.

Disney's limited release of "Ponyo," from renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki, took in $3.5 million and the studio says it is on track to surpass the $10 million record that his "Spirited Away" set.

-- Joe Flint

Photos: Top: "District 9." Credit: David Bloomer/Sony Pictures. Bottom: "The Time Traveler's Wife." Credit: Alan Markfield/Associated Press

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