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First look: 'Surrogates' flops, 'Fame' disappoints, 'Cloudy' has sunny second weekend

September 27, 2009 |  8:55 am


It was a bad weekend for new movies at the box office.

Walt Disney Studios' science-fiction thriller "Surrogates" was a major flop, selling a studio-estimated $15 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada. That's substantially below already soft estimates based on pre-release audience polling that it would gross from $20 million to $25 million. More importantly, it's a financial blow to the studio given the movie's production cost of $80 million and marketing that took the total cost to well over $100 million.

It's the second disappointing major release in a row for Disney after July's costly "G-Force" and comes at a time of great uncertainty for the studio following the recent unexpected departure of Chairman Dick Cook.

The weak performance of "Surrogates," which stars Bruce Willis, is yet another sign this year that A-list actors aren't drawing audiences in sufficient numbers to big-budget pictures.

"Fame" wasn't as big a flop for MGM and its financing partner Lakeshore Entertainment given the film's relatively low budget of $18 million. Still, the film's $10-million opening is relatively weak and is certainly not what the struggling studio was hoping for as it attempts to avoid bankruptcy in the face of potentially crushing debt.

Horror flick "Pandorum," which Overture Films distributed for financier Constantin in the U.S. and Canada, was another flop, grossing a dismal $4.4 million. The movie cost $40 million to produce, and Overture paid just under $10 million for distribution rights.

The weekend's box office bright spot was Sony's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," which rode strong audience buzz to an extraordinarily small decline of just 19%, one of the lowest for any movie in wide release this year. The third film from the studio's animation unit collected $24.6 million this weekend, bringing its total domestic gross to $60 million.

After a so-so opening of $30.3 million, this weekend's strong performance is a very positive sign for Sony that the $100-million production may end up a success. Next weekend, it faces much stiffer competition for the family audience, however, from Disney's re-release of the two "Toy Story" movies in 3-D.

In limited release this weekend, the new Michael Moore movie "Capitalism: A Love Story" sold a very strong $240,000 worth of tickets at four theaters in Los Angeles and New York, bringing its total since opening Wednesday to $306,856. That's a very strong opening, though not as strong as the opening of Moore's "Sicko" in 2007. Now that Moore's core fans have shown their continued support, it remains to be seen how a broader audience will respond to the latest controversial subject matter from the left-wing filmmaker when Overture Films, which is handling the movie along with Paramount Vantage, releases it nationwide on Friday.

-- Ben Fritz

Image: "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." Credit: Sony Pictures Animation