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Star-driven movies flop again as 'Zombieland' easily wins box office

October 4, 2009 | 12:25 pm

WhipIt Drew Barrymore and Ricky Gervais were eaten alive at the box office this weekend.

The two well-known stars aggressively pushed their feature directorial debuts, in which both acted as well, to little avail. Gervais' "The Invention of Lying" opened to a soft $7.4 million while Barrymore's "Whip It" grossed a dismal $4.9 million, according to studio estimates.

Both movies were relatively inexpensive to produce, at $18.5 million and $15 million, respectively, but are still looking like duds, particularly when marketing costs are included. "Lying" was financed by Radar Pictures, Media Rights Capital and Warner Bros., while "Whip It" was produced and distributed by Fox Searchlight.

"Whip It" has a better chance of holding on at the box office with an audience rating of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. "Lying" got a C+.

"Lying" also opened in the U.K and Ireland, where it performed better. In Gervais' home country, the film grossed $2.9 million and was in a dead heat with "Fame" for first place.

In a year when star power had continually proved weak at the box office, the two films were easily bested by "Zombieland," which featured non-A-listers Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg. The film, which cost Sony and Relativity Media $23.6 million to produce, opened to $25 million, putting it on track to succeed. 

The movie was helped by largely positive reviews and good buzz, reflected in an A- CinemaScore, driven by its comedic take on the zombie horror genre.

Disney, meanwhile, had a decent debut for its double feature of the "Toy Story" movies in digital 3-D. They grossed $12.5 million.

Despite the animated competition and losing more than half of its 3-D screens to the Disney release, Sony's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" declined a relatively modest 33% and held on as a solid No. 2 at the box office, collecting $16.7 million. The third production from Sony Pictures Animation, which cost about $100 million to make, has now collected $82.4 million domestically.

Overseas, it has collected $21.9 million so far with many major markets left to open.

Capitalism After a strong debut at four theaters last weekend, Overture Films expanded "Capitalism: A Love Story" to nearly 1,000 locations and sold $4.9 million worth of tickets. Although nowhere close to Moore's biggest hit, "Fahrenheit 9/11," the debut of "Capitalism" was very strong for a documentary.

Moore's movies traditionally play well for several weeks, and Overture and partner Paramount are surely hoping that "Capitalism" will do the same, ultimately grossing more than $20 million domestically.

In limited release, Focus Features opened the latest Coen Brothers movie, "A Serious Man," to a 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.

For more on the performance of "Paranormal Activity," see this post.

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

1. "Zombieland" (Sony/Relativity): Opened to $25 million.

2. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (Sony): Fell 33% on its third weekend to $16.7 million. Total domestic ticket sales: $82.4 million.

3. "Toy Story & Toy Story 2 3-D" (Disney): $12.5 million on the first weekend of a two-week limited run.

4. "The Invention of Lying" (Warner Bros./MRC/Radar): $7.4 million debut.

5. "Surrogates" (Disney): Down 51% on its second weekend to $7.3 million. Domestic total: $26.4 million.

6. "Whip It" (Fox Searchlight): Opened to $4.9 million.

6. "Capitalism: A Love Story" (Overture/Paramount): $4.9 million as it went wide on its second weekend.

8. "Fame" (MGM/Lakeshore): $4.8 million, down 53%. U.S. and Canadian ticket sales to date: $16.6 million.

9. "The Informant" (Warner Bros./Participant/Groundswell): Declined 43% on its third weekend to $3.8 million, bringing its domestic total to $26.6 million.

10. "Love Happens" (Universal): $2.8 million on its third weekend, a drop of 36%. Domestic total of $18.9 million.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page and Kristin Wiig in "Whip It." Credit: Darren Michaels / Fox Searchlight

Bottom photo: Michael Moore at the premiere of "Capitalism: A Love Story" in Washington, D.C. Credit: Kris Connor / Getty Images