It's been weeks since a family-friendly film hit theaters, and judging by the opening weekend result for "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2," moviegoers with kids were eager to return to the multiplex.
The 3-D animated sequel easily beat out three new nationwide releases this weekend, launching with $35 million, according to an estimate from distributor Sony Pictures. Though that's a solid opening, it's still far below the $45 million pre-release audience surveys indicated for the film.
None of the weekend's other new films did especially impressive business. Ron Howard's race car drama "Rush" didn't get off to that speedy a start, taking in $10.3 million. The romantic comedy "Baggage Claim" grossed $9.3 million, barely beating the $9-million tally for Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut "Don Jon" — though both films were made for under $10 million.
"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" had a slightly bigger opening than its predecessor, which debuted with $30.3 million in 2009. The picture went on to collect a healthy $243 million worldwide.
Like the original "Cloudy," the sequel was well-liked by audiences: Both installments received an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. Roughly 80% of those who saw the film — which features the voices of stars such as Bill Hader and Anna Faris as "foodimals — were families.
"Cloudy 2" posted the strongest opening for an animated film since July, as "Turbo," "The Smurfs 2" and "Planes" all cannibalized one another at the box office during summer's final weeks. Still, the picture will not go on to become one of the year's biggest animated hits: both "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University" launched with over $80 million apiece. Fortunately, Sony Pictures Animation didn't spend much to produce "Cloudy 2" — about $78 million — so the movie should do respectable business for the studio.
Last weekend, Universal Pictures released "Rush" in five theaters in an effort to spread positive word-of-mouth about the well-reviewed film before its wide release. Playing in five theaters, the movie didn't do spectacular business — a trend that continued this weekend.
Co-financed by Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media for $38 million, "Rush" tells the story of famed 1970s Formula One racers and fierce rivals James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). The picture debuted to a warm reaction at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, and opening-weekend moviegoers liked it too, giving the film an A- CinemaScore. Despite its subject matter, the film appealed to both men and women in nearly equal measure, though it did attract an older crowd — 53% of whom were over the age of 40.
While the opening for "Baggage Claim" wasn't fantastic, the movie didn't cost much to make — about $8.5 million. The movie features a predominantly African American cast and was aimed at black moviegoers — indeed, the main demographic that turned up to see the film this weekend, per distributor Fox Searchlight. The movie fared particularly well in urban markets, with top results coming from Baltimore, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
The film follows a flight attendant (Paula Patton) who has grown increasingly desperate to tie the knot. Though reviews for writer-director David Talbert's second feature were dismal, moviegoers seemed to enjoy it this weekend: The largely female crowd who saw the picture gave it an average grade of A-.
Moviegoers did not like "Don Jon" nearly as much. The film only earned a C+ — somewhat surprising, given that the picture has a 81% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Written and directed by Gordon-Levitt, the movie stars the actor as a "Jersey Shore"-type playboy trying to hide his pornography addiction from his new girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson). Relativity Media acquired the $6-million production for $4 million at the Sundance Film Festival in January, promising to pay at least $25 million to market it.
Given those numbers, Relativity executives say they are optimistic the film will be a success — even with that C+ looming.
“I think the most important result from the weekend is that this is the debut of a new filmmaker,” said Kyle Davies, Relativity's president of theatrical distribution. “He was already a successful actor and now he’s added to director to his résumé. It’s the start of an interesting and exciting career for him.”
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