Sony pics take big bite out of weekend box office

Sony knocked out its competition this weekend with a one-two punch as “Zombieland” took $25 million at 3,036 and 3D toon “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” dropped to the second spot in its third frame with $16.7 million at 2,977 playdates.

Disney’s 3D double-bill release of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2″ was third at the B.O. with $12.5 million at 1,745.

At $7.4 million, Warner Bros. comedy “The Invention of Lying,” starring Ricky Gervais, narrowly inched out the second week of Disney’s “Surrogates,” which grossed $7.3 million. Drew Barrymore’s directing debut “Whip It” disappointed with $4.85 million, tying with Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story.”

Overseas, Sony was again strong as “The Ugly Truth” topped the box office at $12.1 million.

Back at home, the frame saw more adult-oriented pics jumping into the awards season pool after Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” tested the waters last week.

The Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man” saw the weekend’s top per-screen average with $41,918, earning $251,510 at an initial six locations. Their Oscar best picture winner “No Country for Old Men” opened to $1.2 million at 28 with a per-screen average of $43,798 in 2007.

Sony distrib chief Rory Bruer credited “Zombieland’s” comedic aspects, especially from stars Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg, as the driving force among its younger aud.

The zombie comedy drew a weekend per-screen average of $8,235, with 58% of its aud under 25.

With a budget in the $25 million range, pic took in $9.5 million Friday, slipped to $9.3 million Saturday and grossed an estimated $6.2 million Sunday.

Combined with an $82.4 million cume for “Meatballs,” Sony was able to match Warner Bros. as the only studios to surpass $1 billion in North America for the eighth consecutive year.

In addition to the weekend’s top earners, Sony boasts four other pics that have launched at No. 1 this year: “Angels and Demons” ($46.2 million), “District 9″ ($37.4 million), “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” ($31.8 million) and “Obsessed” ($28.6 million).

“Meatballs” declined only 33% after holding the frame’s top spot for two consecutive weeks.

Pic outperformed Disney’s 3D reissue of the “Toy Story” double bill, whose aud was almost evenly split between auds 18 and under and over 18 and between males and females.

“The Invention of Lying” exceeded studio expectations with $7.4 million at 1,707, while “Surrogates” declined 51% in its soph sesh for a $7.3 million gross and cume of $26.4 million.

Perf of Fox Searchlight’s roller derby pic “Whip It” was underwhelming after last weekend’s successful sneaks. Despite a wide release, studio described the launch as a platform build and hopes word of mouth will propel the pic higher in next weekend’s frame.

Moore’s docu “Capitalism: A Love Story” expanded from four to 962, the biggest initial expansion for him. “Capitalism” falls behind “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which opened with $23.9 million at 868 in 2004, and finished just ahead of 2007′s “Sicko” with $4.5 million at only 628 playdates in its first wide weekend.

Scary movie “Paranormal Activity” put up impressive numbers in its soph sesh, following “Serious” as the second-highest per-screen grosser with $16,000 at 33. Pic, which screened only during midnight showings, bested its per-screen average last weekend of $6,489 at 12 playdates.

Originally designated as an extra on a DVD release for a bigger-budgeted remake, “Paranormal” found its way to the bigscreen after a two-year delay, with Paramount trying midnight screenings to build interest. Par plans to expand the pic to daytime screenings Friday, adding 10 engagements.

MGM’s reboot of the 1980 tuner “Fame” saw a 53% decline in its second weekend with $4.8 million at 3,133, while WB’s Matt Damon starrer “The Informant” topped out in its third frame with $3.8 million at 2,425.

Overture saw modest numbers for “Pandorum,” which entered its second frame at 2,506, grossing $1.9 million — a 57% decline from its opening $4.4 million.

On the specialty front, Sony Pictures Classics’ biopic “Coco Before Chanel” drew strong numbers with $220,139 in limited release, bringing the pic’s cume to $487,442. Apparition’s Campion pic “Bright Star” held well in top markets, including L.A., New York and Washington, D.C., with $723,856 at 317 engagements. Pic has cumed $1.9 million domestically.

Lionsgate saw a strong performance from its launch of “More Than a Game,” about NBA star LeBron James. Docu grossed $196,681 at 14 playdates; per-screen average was $14,048.

Sony added success on the foreign front to its domestic prowess.

Sony’s “The Ugly Truth” won markets including Austria, Switzerland, Taiwan and Hungary as it cumed $12.1 million in 54 markets.

Disney’s “Surrogates” added 10 territories to its roster, bringing its total to 24 with $11.4 million, while “Up” followed close behind with $10.6 million in 27 territories.

Sony’s “Meatballs” matched solid domestic earnings with a strong overseas performance of $7.1 million in 31 markets, including Brazil, Colombia and Israel. Pic’s third U.K. sesh added $1.9 million on 611 screens, bringing its territory cume to $7.9 million.

“Inglourious Basterds” launched in Italy with $3 million at 331, pushing the pic’s estimated international gross near $8.6 million in 45 territories. “Basterds” has cumed $258.5 million worldwide.

“Lying” opened date and date in the U.K. with an estimated $2.9 million at 367, topping earlier Gervais pic “Ghost Town.”

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