Defying conventional wisdom, a Sci-Fi flick with no stars (let alone American actors), set in South Africa from a first time director dominated the box office on Friday. Neill Bloomkamp's "District 9" road a wave of clever marketing and strong reviews for a stunning $14.2 million debut. If the picture can keep it up, it could make up to $40 million this weekend. Distributor Sony Pictures was predicting a more conservative $23-25 million for the three-day, but there would have to be a cataclysmic drop off for that to occur.
Another film hoping to generate some buzz was Summit Entertainment's "Bandslam." The universally well-reviewed teen rock band flick found only $880,000 at the box office Friday. That was even more disappointing for the mini-major taking into account "Twilight" fans were forced to see the picture to get a sneak peek at "The Twilight Saga: New Moon's" new trailer. It's clear many of the passionate fans were willing to wait until it debuts online next week or even longer (it may have been in Summit's best interest to insist the trailer would never be available outside of theaters). In any event, the Vanessa Hudgens picture is hoping to inch toward $3 million for the weekend.
A strong debut belonged to the Rachel McAdams/Eric Bana romance "The Time Traveler's Wife." An adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's popular novel, the New Line/Warner Bros. release had a pleasant $7.7 million Friday in what should be a $16-18 million weekend. That's a tad under what tracking had suggested, but its clear audiences look forward to McAdams in romantic roles like "The Notebook" and this may be her career staple from now on.
Opening in only 980 theaters was "Ponyo." The English-language dubbed version of the critically-acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki animated picture found $1.2 million in its opening day, but averaged a disappointing $1,290 per screen. It may also get a boost on Saturday when more families tend to head to matinee screenings.
Another new opener, Jeremy Piven's "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard," found an OK $2 million off only 1,900 screeens. The R-rated comedy should do about $6 million this weekend.
In not that surprising news, last week's champ "GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra" crashed 68% in what should be only a $18 million weekend. The film will still shoot past $100 million, but it's not the blockbuster Paramount hoped for after its impressive opening weekend.
Look for final weekend estimates tomorrow on HitFix.