Pay attention Hollywood executives because if this weekend's box office proved anything it's that moviegoers will actually pay to see a horror comedy.
"Zombieland," as close to an American version of "Shaun of the Dead" as we'll ever get, topped the chart with $25 million in its first three days. Modestly budgeted for just under that amount, the picture will be a nice profit center for producer Sony Pictures. What it proves however, is that the recent failure of "Jennifer's Body" and "Sorority Row" plus the disappointing returns of last May's critically acclaimed "Drag Me to Hell" had little to do with their comical horror genre and more with their release dates and marketing campaigns. Good news for the Weinsteins and their upcoming fourth installment of the "Scream" series (maybe).
Dropping only 33% for second place was "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" with another $16.7 million and a new total of $82.3 million. By midweek it should surpass Sony Animation's "Open Season" $85 million gross, the highest of the division so far, and is well on it's way to make anywhere from $115-130 million overall. This is a huge accomplishment for Sony Animation and also puts the well-reviewed film in the middle of the race for best animated feature which has suddenly become very competitive this year (let's hope there are five nominees instead of three).
What makes "Cloudy's" accomplishment even more amazing is it lost a substantial number of 3-D screens to the impressive re-release of "Toy Story"/"Toy Story 2" 3-D double feature. The Pixar classics came in third for the weekend with $12.5 million. "Toy Story 3" hits theaters next summer.
Arriving in the fourth slot was Ricky Gervais' "The Invention of Lying" which made $7.35 million in only in 1,700 theaters (half of "Zombieland). Considering Gervais last comedy, "Ghost Town," made $13 million total, Warner Bros. has to be pleased with this result as the picture should recoup it's $18 million budget in theaters.
"Surrogates" dropped 50% in its second week for $7.34 million for fifth place and a new total of $26 million. Both Disney and Bruce Willis no doubt want to quickly move on and forget about this costly bomb at this point.
Sixth place went to the expansion of Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story." Jumping to 958 theaters, the documentary grossed $4.8 million for a new total of $5.2 million overall. This is one of the third biggest wide openings for a documentary (non-concert film) and Moore's second best after the cultural phenomenon known as "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Faring more disappointingly was Drew Barrymore's directorial debut "Whip It" which tied for sixth with "Capitalism" with $4.85 million in 1,700 theaters. Fox Searchlight gave it their all in the marketing campaign for the film, but something didn't click with audiences. Even with a strong preview last weekend and positive reviews, a big audience didn't turn out for Ellen Page's second leading role since "Juno." The studio will do a lot of second guessing on this one, but a crowded weekend of comedies appealing to women may have been their biggest mistake.
In limited release, the Coen Bros. personal drama "A Serious Man" had one of the best openings of the year with $252,000 in only six theaters for an impressive $42,000 average. That's the third biggest per screen opening of the year behind "Sunshine Cleaning" and "Capitalism." Focus Features will expand the critic's favorite across the country in the coming weeks.
Lastly, quickly becoming the little movie that could, "Paranormal Activity" rode a wave of good word of mouth and press to jump into the top 20 with $535,000 this weekend in only 33 theaters and a $16,212 average. What makes that number so remarkable is that it's based almost entirely off just midnight screenings. It will be curious to see when Paramount Pictures decides to move the film into wide release. Considering the buzz, a tricky proposition to be sure.
Her are the top ten releases this weekend according to Box Office Mojo and studio estimates. Final results are announced on Monday.
1. "Zombieland," $25 million.
2. "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs," $24.6 million.
3. "Toy Story/Toy Story 2" 3-D, $12.5 million.
4. "The Invention of Lying," $7.35 million.
5. "Surrogates," $7.34 million, $26.3 million to date.
6. "Capitalism: A Love Story," $4.85 million, $5.2 million to date. (tie)
6. "Whip It," $4.85 million. (tie)
8. "Fame," $4.7 million, $16.6 million to date.
9. "The Informant," $3.8 million, $26.5 million to date.
10 "Love Happens," $2.7 million , $18 million to date.