Sony pics vie for box office crown

'Zombieland' takes on reigning champ 'Cloudy'

Sony looks to be its own biggest competition this weekend, as reigning champ “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” enters its third frame with $63.8 million to date and R-rated “Zombieland” bows at 3,036 playdates.

Four other films enter the frame, all vying for a piece of Sony’s pie.

Leading the barrage should be Drew Barrymore’s girl-power directing debut, “Whip It,” which Barrymore toplines alongside Ellen Page and Juliette Lewis. Pic heads into the frame at 1,720 locations after a sneak last weekend at 502 drew a strong response at 65% capacity.

Warner Bros. has modest expectations for Ricky Gervais starrer “The Invention of Lying,” opening at 1,707, while Overture’s Michael Moore docu “Capitalism: A Love Story” looks to capitalize on a profitable limited release as it goes into its soph sesh at 962, the widest initial expansion to date for Moore, following “Fahrenheit 9/11” at 868. “Capitalism” has already taken in $372,034 as of Wednesday. Opening weekend per-screen average was $58,250; Overture’s “Sunshine Cleaning” previously held the top average for 2009 with $54,798.

“Meatballs” should encounter some competition from Disney’s re-release of the “Toy Story” franchise in 3D. The double feature looks to siphon younger auds for a two-week run at 1,745.

Reissue is meant to build anticipation for Disney’s latest addition to the toon franchise, “Toy Story 3,” slated for release next summer. It also acts as a testing ground for Disney’s back catalog to get the 3D treatment.

The Mouse said it would be open to extending the two-week run depending on the toons’ performance.

In 1995 the first “Toy Story” opened with $29.1 million at 2,281 locations. The two films have cumed $847 million worldwide.

Rivals estimate the reissue could finish in the $10 million-$15 million range, while “Zombieland” and “Cloudy” could top out in the low to mid 20s.

After a less-than-stellar debut for “Surrogates” with $15 million at 2,951, Disney’s sci-fi thriller is likely to see a 40%-50% decline, especially with “Zombieland,” targeting a similar demo, added to the mix.

Pic, starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin, is in a similar vein as zomcom “Shaun of the Dead,” which opened strongly with $3.3 million in a 2004 limited release for Focus.

Sony expects “Zombieland” to play well with males under 25. Pic is set in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with the undead. Harrelson plays a goofy zombie killer who teams up with Eisenberg and Breslin en route to a rumored zombie-free Hollywood theme park.

Fox Searchlight’s “Whip It” has shown strong tracking with young females. Roller-derby dramedy should benefit from Barrymore’s appeal to younger femmes and Page’s role as a nerdy teen who finds social acceptance through the sport. Page’s starmaking turn in “Juno” helped propel the pic to $143 million at the domestic B.O.

On the specialty front, Focus enters the frame with the Coen brothers’ latest, “A Serious Man,” opening at an initial six locations. Though the pic sports no big-name stars, it was well reviewed coming out of the Toronto Film Fest.

Lionsgate’s basketball docu “More Than a Game,” about NBA superstar LeBron James, is set for limited rollouts in L.A., New York and Cleveland.

IFC’s Argentine pic “Afterschool” also opens limited in New York, and Apparition’s Jane Campion period pic “Bright Star” widens to 327 in its fourth frame.

On the foreign front, “Lying” will open day and date in the U.K. “Surrogates,” which performed well overseas with $12.2 million, is expanding to 16 markets including Mexico, Sweden and South Korea, while Italy opens “Inglourious Basterds.” “Zombieland” kicks off with the U.K. and Russia next weekend before rolling out across the rest of the world.

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