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Prospects for 'Cloudy' future mixed as 'Informant,' 'Love Happens,' 'Jennifer's Body' disappoint

September 20, 2009 | 11:22 am

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Sony is hoping "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" will have a future more like "Bolt" and less like its first animated outing, "Open Season."

After a decent but not spectacular $30.1-million opening for its adaptation of the popular children's book, studio distribution president Rory Bruer said he is aiming for "Cloudy" to hold on as well at the box office as Disney's "Bolt," which debuted to $26.2 million last year and went on to sell $114 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada.

That movie played over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, however, giving it better exposure to the family audience that typically drives the performance of animated features. The profile of "Cloudy" appears more similar to "Open Season," which also debuted in late September three years ago. It launched with $23.6 million and went on to gross $85.1 million. It appears that word of mouth for "Cloudy" will be just as strong as that of "Open Season," since both movies got an A-minus from audiences, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

If "Cloudy" performs similarly, it should end up grossing about $100 million domestically. It remains to be seen how the film will perform overseas, although it did open at No. 1 this weekend in four territories: Britain, Mexico, Chile and Ecuador.

Fifty-nine percent of the theaters playing "Meatballs" are showing the film on digital 3-D screens, which carry higher ticket prices and should help the movie rack up grosses faster. However, in two weeks it will probably lose most of its 3-D screens, save for 127 in the Imax format, to Disney's re-release of the two "Toy Story" movies.

"Cloudy" delivered Sony's biggest opening weekend for an animated movie, although it's not a significant improvement over "Open Season" when three years of ticket price inflation and the 3-D advantage are included. The $100-million production probably will be at best a modest success.

"Cloudy" was a dominant No. 1 at the domestic box office, as three new movies with relatively low budgets put up mediocre to poor numbers.

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"Jennifer's Body," financed by Fox and Dune Entertainment for $16 million, was the biggest disappointment, opening to just $6.8 million. The audience was almost evenly split between men and women under 25, but not enough turned out for star Megan Fox or Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody's comedic horror plot. Those who did come didn't respond well, as the CinemaScore was a C-minus.

"Love Happens," from Universal and Relativity Media, opened to a mediocre $8.5 million. The $18-million production budget was already covered by foreign pre-sales, meaning the two financiers shouldn't lose too much money even including marketing expenses. The romantic drama 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."

The Steven Soderbergh-directed quirky comedy "The Informant" didn't get much love from audiences either, earning a C-minus CinemaScore. The $22-million production from Warner Bros., Participant Media and Groundswell Productions grossed a weak $10.5 million, but performed best in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Washington where Warner is hopeful it will hold on well for several weeks. The movie played poorly in Southern cities like Atlanta and Dallas.

New independent studio Apparition opened its first film, Jane Campion's "Bright Star," this weekend to a respectable $190,000 at 19 theaters.

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): Opened to $30.1 million.

2. "The Informant" (Warner Bros/Participant/Groundwell): $10.5-million debut.

3. "I Can Do Bad All by Myself" (Lionsgate): $10.1 million on its second weekend, down 57%. Domestic total: $37.9 million.

4. "Love Happens" (Universal/Relativity): Launched to $8.5 million.

5. "Jennifer's Body" (Fox/Dune): $6.8 million on its opening weekend.

6. "9" (Focus): Dropped 49% on its second weekend to $5.5 million. Total domestic ticket sales: $22.8 million.

7. "Inglourious Basterds" (Weinstein/Universal): $3.6 million, a drop of 41% on its fifth weekend. Cumulative gross in the U.S. and Canada is now $109.9 million. Foreign total from 40 territories so far: $115.7 million.

8. "All About Steve" (Fox): $3.4 million, a drop of 40% on its third weekend. Domestic total: $26.7 million.

9. "Sorority Row" (Summit): Declined 51% on its second weekend to $2.5 million, bringing domestic ticket sales so far to $8.9 million.

10. "The Final Destination" (Warner Bros./New Line): $2.4 million on its fourth weekend, down 57%. $62.4-million domestic total. The international total from 35 territories is $70.4 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: A scene from "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." Credit: Sony Pictures Animation.

Bottom photo: Megan Fox in "Jennifer's Body." Credit: Doane Gregory / 20th Century Fox.

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