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First look: 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' has murky opening

September 20, 2009 |  8:56 am

Cloudy2

The sun peeked through but didn't shine too brightly for Sony this weekend, as "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" opened to a so-so $30.1 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to studio estimates.

Sony's third animated outing was essentially on par with its first, 2006's "Open Season," given three years of ticket price inflation and the fact that the majority of "Cloudy's" theaters played the movie in digital 3-D, which brings a ticket-price surcharge. "Open Season," considered a decent performer for Sony, bowed to $23.6 million.

While it's not a flop like its second animated film, 2007's "Surf's Up," "Cloudy" didn't bring the mojo Sony has been hoping would leap its animation division into the top tier of competitors along with DreamWorks and Pixar. 

If it declines slowly at the box office, as family films often do, the $100-million adaptation of the popular children's book should end up neither a major money-loser nor profit generator for Sony. Audiences gave it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore, indicating strong word of mouth. But  it faces major competition in two weeks when Disney re-releases the two "Toy Story" movies in 3-D.

None of the weekend's other three movies did much business, although with their modest budgets, none were big flops.

"The Informant," financed by Warner Bros., Participant Media and Groundswell Productions, opened to $10.5 million. The $22-million production directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Matt Damon had a tricky marketing challenge -- balancing comedy with dry subject matter.

Universal and Relativity Media's "Love Happens," which cost $18 million, grossed a mediocre $8.5 million. The weak start ends a hot streak at the box office for star Jennifer Aniston that has included three consecutive hits: "The Break-Up," "Marley and Me," and "He's Just Not That Into You."

Fox's horror comedy "Jennifer's Body" had the weakest start, selling just $6.8 million worth of tickets.  Star Megan Fox apparently was unable to draw as many young men as Fox and its co-financier Dune Entertainment had hoped. The film  cost $16 million to produce.

Lionsgate's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," last weekend's No. 1 movie, declined 57%, typical for a Tyler Perry film. Its $10.1-million gross landed it at No. 3 for the weekend and brought the movie's total domestic ticket sales to $37.9 million.

-- Ben Fritz

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