'Meatballs' leaves new releases begging for scraps

Sony’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” stayed sunny at the nation’s box office with $24.6 million at 3,119, easily topping downbeat debuts of Disney’s “Surrogates,” MGM’s “Fame” and Overture’s “Pandorum.”

Audiences stayed hungry for a second helping of “Meatballs,” which outperformed forecasts as it declined only 19% to lift the 10-day cume to $60 million.

The 3D toon took in $5.6 million Friday, doubled that Saturday to $11.2 million and grossed an estimated $7.8 million Sunday. Sony distrib chief Rory Bruer pointed to strong word of mouth leading to expansion of the audience well beyond the core family and kids demo.

Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” capitalized on recession topicality for Overture in its launch with $240,000 at four engagements Friday-Sunday, achieving the top per-screen average this year at $60,000 as the docu bested the $54,798 mark for “Sunshine Cleaning.” “Capitalism” has cumed $306,586 in five days amid “huge” demand, according to Overture exec VP Kyle Davies, paving the way for expansion to about 1,000 next weekend.

“Surrogates,” starring Bruce Willis, fizzled in second with $15 million at 2,951 as the sci-fier performed well under forecasts. With an $80 million budget and a major promotional push for “Surrogates,” the lackluster launch represents a disappointment for the Mouse House amid the town’s puzzlement over Dick Cook’s recent firing as studio chief.

“Surrogates” generated stronger per-screen numbers overseas, with $12.2 million at 1,590 in 10 markets, especially a $5 million Russian launch.

“Fame,” a reboot of the 1980 tuner-drama, followed in third domestically with $10 million at 3,096 as the co-production of Lakeshore and MGM/United Artists finished at the low end of expectations. Attendees for “Fame” were 78% female and 55% under 25 as “Cloudy” appeared to cut into the potential audience, according to MGM distrib topper Erik Lomis.

With an $18 million pricetag, “Fame” will be profitable, Lomis added. Foreign launches added $6.6 million in half a dozen markets, notably a $4 million first-place debut in the U.K.

Warner’s second frame of Matt Damon’s “The Informant” held respectably in fourth with a 34% decline to $6.9 million at 2,505 for a 10-day cume of $21 million. Lionsgate’s third frame of “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” followed with $4.8 million at 2,120 for a 17-day total of $44.5 million.

“Bad” edged Overture’s tepid launch of outer-space horror entry “Pandorum” with $4.4 million at 1,759, continuing the recent drab performance by the genre from such titles as “Sorority Row” and “Jennifer’s Body.” The $40 million project carries a relatively small risk for Overture, which invested under $10 million.

U’s soph sesh of “Love Happens” followed with $4.3 million at 1,898, down 46%, and “Jennifer’s Body” fell 49% in its second frame to $3.5 million at 2,738.

Focus’ third frame of “9” took ninth with $2.8 million at 2,025, and TWC’s sixth weekend of “Inglourious Basterds” rounded out the top 10 with $2.7 million at 1,960, holding nicely with a 29% decline for a $114.4 million cume.

The frame also saw Paramount scare up a solid $80,000 for micro-budgeted “Paranormal Activity” from latenight screenings Friday and Saturday in a dozen college cities; nearly all 24 shows sold out.

Par asked “Paranormal” fans to go to the film’s website to demand additional playdates, and the studio said Sunday that it had been “bombarded” with more than 200,000 requests. It’s likely to offer midnight showings next weekend in new markets but hasn’t yet nailed down specific locales.

Another title aimed at collegians, Freestyle’s comedy “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” showed decent heat with $368,760 at 115.

Fox Searchlight sneaked Drew Barrymore’s roller derby comedy “Whip It” Saturday night at 502 and reported strong response with 65% capacity.

Overall biz continued the recent trend of moderate performances. Year-to-date gross is nearing $7.8 billion, up about 8% from 2008 at the same point.

The final 2009 quarter starts with “Whip It” going wide at about 2,000 next weekend amid an eclectic slate — partly occasioned by Par’s decision to pull “Shutter Island” from the date. The weekend will see Overture’s expansion of “Capitalism” and launches of Sony’s “Zombieland,” Warner’s “The Invention of Lying” and Disney’s two-week run of the 3D versions of the first two “Toy Story” pics at about 1,500.

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” will lose most of its 3D screens, though it will continue to play in 3D at 127 Imax venues, where it’s already grossed $5 million.

On the arthouse front, Sony Classics’ debut of French biopic “Coco Before Chanel” performed exceptionally with $177,137 at five sites in Los Angeles and New York. The Audrey Tautou vehicle will go into Boston, Chicago and San Francisco next weekend as part of a gradual expansion.

Apparition’s expansion of awards contender “Bright Star” showed decent traction with $682,609 at 130 for a 10-day cume of $972,567. And Miramax’s launch of Clive Owen’s family drama “The Boys Are Back” generated a respectable $51,000 at six.

On the foreign front, Disney’s “Up” edged “Surrogates” with $12.3 million at 3,700 in 25 markets to lift the offshore cume to $215.4 million. The second German “Up” sesh led the way with $4.3 million.

“Inglourious Basterds” stayed solid overseas with $7.5 million at 2,800 in 41 markets for an international cume of $128.9 million. The second Spanish frame declined 37% to $2.6 million, beating “Surrogates” by 20%.

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” showed decent holding power overseas with $4.9 million at 1,375 in 26 markets, with the U.K. seeing a 9% decline to $2.3 million. The “Cloudy” foreign cume has hit $13.3 million.

Other offshore players included “District 9,” with $6.1 million for a $57 million international cume; “The Ugly Truth,” with $5.8 million at 2,190 for a $55 million foreign total; “The Final Destination,” with $5.5 million at 2,370 for an overseas cume of $83.8 million; and “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” with $5.3 million at 2,440 for a $70 million total.

“Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” continued to pad its stunning overseas performance, with $2.4 million for a cume of $681.2 million.

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