For the second weekend in a row, the movie box office takes a back seat to a pop-cultural phenomenon. Last week, the release of the Grand Theft Auto V video game dwarfed the opening of Prisoners. This time, the 3-D animated feature Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 finished first at North American theaters with $35 million, according to preliminary studio estimates — but all anyone wants to know is what will happen to Walter White on the final episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad.
Back in our seasonally irrelevant corner of the entertainment universe, Meatballs 2 topped the $30.3 million opening gross of the 2009 original, and rang up the third highest opening for a September release, behind the $42.5 million for last year’s Adam Sandler toon Hotel Transylvania and the $40.3 million for the horror film Insidious Chapter 2 two weeks ago.
[MONDAY UPDATE: According to “actual” figures issued today, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 earned $34 million, not $35 million. Each of the weekend’s top six films finished about 3% below its Sunday estimate. The only picture with a substantial jump over its predicted gross was the rerelease of The Wizard of Oz, up 11% to $557,233.]
The Sony sequel gleaned an A-minus CinemaScore rating from an early audience that comprised 80% families. Produced for a sensible $78 million, about the same as the cost for Despicable Me 2 but only a third of the tab for Pixar’s Monsters University, Meatballs 2 also earned more than the combined revenue of the other three movies opening in wide release this weekend.
Finishing in third place behind Prisoners, Ron Howard’s Rush expanded from five theaters in last week’s platform debut to 2,297 and pulled in $10.3 million. The Formula 1 buddy movie, made for a fairly thrifty $38 million, attracted an older crowd (53% over the age of 40) that was evenly divided between men and women. They liked it: another A-minus CinemaScore.
Two couldn’t-be-more-different romantic comedies took the fourth and fifth slots. The PG-13 Baggage Claim, starring Paula Patton (Precious, Mission Impossible 4) as a flight attendant looking for love in all the wrong planes, earned $9.3 million — and a third A-minus CinemaScore — from a constituency that skewed female and African American. As the movie cost only about $8.5 million to produce, its sponsors can claim a minor win on a minor investment.
Indeed, the only new movie not greeted with quantifiable audience approval was the R-rated Don Jon, which received an 81% “fresh” rating from the Rotten Tomatoes survey of movie critics but got slapped or spanked with a CinemaScore of C-plus. The weekend tally was $9 million for writer-director-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s tale of a guy with a dream girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson) and a porn addiction. The Don Jon budget was a modest $6 million, so it might seem near profit — except that Relativity Media, which picked up the film, promised to spend $25 million to promote it. Perhaps the movie is best to be enjoyed at home, with other adult material.
(MORE: Mary Pols Reviews Don Jon)
In related news, last weekend’s porn-addiction comedy Thanks for Sharing fell 70%, to $163,000, on its second weekend in about 250 theaters.
How bad are those figures? Consider that Enough Said, Nicole Holofcener’s indie valentine, played in fewer venues (227) than Thanks for Sharing and earned 13 times as much: $2.1 million. Look for the warmth to spread as art-house lovers and fans of The Sopranos pay fond tribute to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ co-star, the late James Gandolfini.
(MORE: Mary Pols Reviews Enough Said)
Two 3-D Imax features tapped musical nostalgia. The re-release of The Wizard of Oz, which generated a rainbow-high $3.1 million at 318 theaters last weekend, fell like a house that crashes at the end of a tornado: 83%, to just $500,000. Louder music played better. The rock-doc Metallica Through the Never amped up $1.7 million on 308 screens. Exit Dorothy; enter Sandman.
That’s it, meth-omaniacs. You can return to obsessing about Breaking Bad.
Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, $35 million, first weekend
2. Prisoners, $11.3 million; $39 million, second week
3. Rush, $10.3 million; $10.6 million, second week
4. Baggage Claim, $9.3 million, first weekend
5. Don Jon, $9 million, first weekend
6. Insidious Chapter 2, $6.7 million; $69.5 million, third week
7. The Family, $3.7 million; $31.7 million, third week
8. Instructions Not Included, $3.4 million; $38.6 million, fifth week
9. We’re the Millers, $2.9 million; $142.4 million, eighth week
10. Lee Daniels’ The Butler, $2.4 million; $110.3 million, seventh week