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Moviegoers spurn 'Surrogates' and 'Fame' but stick with 'Meatballs'

September 27, 2009 | 11:44 am

Surrogates

Audiences took a look at the new movie offerings this weekend and decided to stick with what they knew.

Two major new wide releases, "Surrogates" and "Fame," both posted weak openings and received poor reactions from those who did attend. Moviegoers gave the films an average grade of "C" and "B-," respectively, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Audiences are typically generous graders, so those are signs of poor word-of-mouth and, most likely, short box-office runs.

"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," meanwhile, dropped an extremely modest 19%, indicating very strong word-of-mouth and continued hunger for a family film.

After its decent but not great $30.3-million launch last week, "Cloudy" enjoyed the third-lowest second-weekend drop of any film this year, after "Taken" and "Coraline." The studio-estimated $24.6 million in tickets it sold in the U.S. and Canada this weekend brought its total domestic gross after 10 days to $60 million. The $100-million production, the third from Sony Pictures Animation, is now on solid financial footing, aided by the $13.3 million it has earned so far from four foreign territories.

Next week, it faces a touch challenge in Disney's re-release of the two "Toy Story" movies, however, which will steal a big chunk of its 3-D screens and likely cause a substantially larger box-office decline.

"Surrogates" cost Disney a hefty $80 million to produce, plus marketing expenses, making its $15-million opening a major flop for the studio. The 10 international territories where it opened were stronger, though far from spectacular, bringing in an additional $12.2 million in ticket sales.

Though Disney had a strong start to the summer with hits "Up" and "The Proposal," "Surrogates" is its second disappointing release after "G-Force." The likely money loser comes at a time when the studio is already wrestling with internal divisions that led to the ouster of former Chairman Dick Cook a week ago Friday.

The financial failure of the movie starring Bruce Willis is the latest in a string of weak openings for movies with A-list actors in lead roles this year, including "State of Play," "Imagine That," "Year One" and "Funny People." Much of the outdoor and online marketing had minimized Willis' involvement, focusing instead on the film's sexy androids.

Fame

"Fame" wasn't nearly as big a disappointment for MGM and its financing partner Lakeshore Entertainment given its modest $18-million production budget. Still, the struggling independent studio had been hoping for a stronger opening than the $10 million it posted, particularly given its larger financial problems.

The movie, which garnered mixed reviews and some withering comparisons to the 1980 release on which it was based, will at best eke out a modest profit.

That's an unlikely fate for "Pandorum," as the horror flick from Overture Films opened to a poor $4.4 million. The movie cost Constantin Film $40 million to produce, although Overture bought domestic distribution rights for just under $10 million.

Overture got better news, along with its partner Paramount Vantage, in "Capitalism: A Love Story." The latest broadside from Michael Moore sold $240,000 worth of tickets at four theaters in Los Angeles and New York City this weekend, giving it the highest  per-theater average of any film released so far this year. Its total since opening on Wednesday is $306,856.

Now that the left-wing filmmaker's devoted fans have shown their interest, Overture, which is handling the domestic release, will expand the film nationwide on Friday.

Also opening well in limited release was Sony Pictures Classics' biopic "Coco Before Chanel," which averaged a solid $35,427 at each of its five theaters.

Miramax's "The Boys Are Back," starring Clive Owen, averaged a much softer $8,500 at each of six theaters where it opened.

Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:

1. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (Sony): Declined only 19% on its second weekend to $24.6 million, bringing its domestic total to $60 million. In four foreign territories it has grossed a total of $13.3 million.

2. "Surrogates" (Disney): Opened to $15 million. Overseas it opened in 10 territories and collected $12.2 million.

3. "Fame" (MGM/Lakeshore): Collected $10 million in its debut weekend.

4. "The Informant" (Warner Bros./Participant/Groundswell): Fell a relatively modest 34% on its second weekend to $6.9 million. Total domestic ticket sales: $21 million.

5. "I Can Do Bad All by Myself" (Lionsgate): Declined 52% on its third weekend to $4.8 million. Domestic total is $44.5 million.

6. "Pandorum" (Overture/Constantin): Debuted to $4.4 million.

7. "Love Happens" (Universal/Relativity): Down 46% on its second weekend to $4.3 million, bringing total domestic ticket sales to $14.7 million.

8. "Jennifer's Body" (Fox): $3.5 million on its second weekend, a decline of 49%. Cumulative U.S. and Canadian ticket sales are $12.3 million.

9. "9" (Focus): Off 49% on its third weekend to $2.8 million. Domestic total: $27.1 million.

10."Inglourious Basterds" (Weinstein Co./Universal): Down just 29% on its sixth weekend to $2.7 million. Total domestic ticket sales: $114.5 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Bruce Willis in "Surrogates." Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Bottom photo: Loriel Hennington dancing in "Fame." Credit: Saeed Adyani / MGM

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