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First look: 'Zombieland' dominates as 'Invention of Lying,' 'Whip It' flop

October 4, 2009 |  8:54 am

On a weekend with two new movies that looked like the walking dead, it was a film about zombie killers that dominated the box office.

Sony Pictures' "Zombieland" opened to a healthy $25 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to studio estimates. Helped in large part by its comedic elements and strong reviews, it broke a recent trend of under-performing horror flicks such as "Pandorum," "Jennifer's Body" and "Sorority Row." 

"Zombieland" was produced by Sony and its financing partner Relativity Media for a relatively modest $23.6 million. Studios typically receive about half of what a movie collects at the box office, putting Sony and Relativity on track to make up most of the production and marketing costs of "Zombieland" before it leaves theaters.

Grosses were virtually flat from Friday to Saturday, and audiences gave it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore, putting "Zombieland" in a good position to play well for several weeks.

Among other new openers in wide release, the only film to show much life was Disney's re-release of the two "Toy Story" films in digital 3-D, which collected a respectable $12.5 million. Given that the studio's only cost was converting the movies to 3-D and that both are already on DVD, that's a relatively solid start.

Its opening had an effect on Sony's animated family film "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," which declined 33% on its third weekend to $16.7 million. Although that means the film still has a strong hold at the box office, the drop is significantly larger than the tiny 17% dip "Cloudy" experienced last weekend. 

The third production from Sony Pictures Animation, which cost about $100 million to make, has now collected a solid $82.4 million domestically.

With "Zombieland" and "Cloudy," Sony had the No. 1 and No. 2 movies at the box office this weekend.

The new Ricky Gervais comedy, "The Invention of Lying," distributed by Warner Bros. for financiers Media Rights Capital and Radar Pictures, opened to a weak $7.4 million. The picture cost $18.5 million to produce, Gervais said in an interview.

Fox Searchlight's roller-derby film "Whip It," directed by Drew Barrymore, generated even less audience interest, opening to a very weak $4.9 million. It cost $15 million to make.

It was outperformed by "Capitalism: A Love Story," which moved into wide release in just over half as many theaters as "Whip It." The latest from left-wing director Michael Moore collected $5.25 million at 962 theaters, a respectable number for a documentary, although nowhere close to Moore's 2004 phenomenom "Fahrenheit 9/11."

In limited release, Focus Features opened the latest Coen Brothers movie, "A Serious Man," to a very strong $251,510 at six theaters, giving it an average take of $41,918.

Basketball documentary "More Than a Game," from Lionsgate, opened to a less impressive $196,681, collecting an average $14,048 at 14 theaters.

Neither of last weekend's soft openers had better news on their second weekend. Disney's "Surrogates declined 51% to $7.3 million, while MGM's "Fame" dropped 53%.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Jesse Eisenberg fleeing the undead in "Zombieland." Credit: Glen Wilson / Columbia Pictures