EInsiders.com : : : Reviews | DVD | Inside Scoop | Box Office | Interviews | Columns | Obits | Contests

Monday, August 17, 2009

'District 9' invades theaters with strong $37m debut, August 14-16, 2009

Opponents of Sony's low-budget sci-fi actioner failed to keep the aliens out, as the $30 million Peter Jackson produced pic dominated the box office with a much better-than-expected $37 million weekend. The debut sent last week's champ G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra tumbling 59% to second with $22.5 million, while Warner's time-bending romance The Time Traveler's Wife finished strong in third with $19.2 million.

Critics went gaga over the directorial debut of South African filmmaker and Peter Jackson protege Neill Blomkamp, whose sci-fi pic blew past industry expectations with a $37 million debut. Thanks to an intriguing viral advertising campaign, stellar reviews and great buzz coming out of this year's Comic-Con convention, the modestly budgeted $30 million alien-encounters pic overcame having a cast of complete unknowns and a very unusual storyline. Averaging a stellar $12,135 in 3,049 theaters, the R-rated pic skewed heavily male and Under 25, dominating the core audience that propelled G.I. Joe's opening weekend.

Compared with last year's Cloverfield, a similarly unconventional sci-fi release that thrived off its unusual premise, no stars, low budget, and pseudo-documentary style visuals, District 9 fell a bit short of that $40.1 million opening. That film tailed off quickly and finished its domestic run with $80 million. But if word of mouth turns out to be strong for District 9, look for the film to best Cloverfield's domestic haul.

Thanks to the arrival of District 9, last week's champ G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra fell a steep 59% to $22.5 million, bringing its ten day haul to $98.8 million. Budgeted at a hefty $175 million, the Paramount/Hasbro release will most likely fall short of its budget by the end of its domestic run.

Warner's counter-programming play succeeded for third as their romance The Time Traveler's Wife opened with $19.2 million. Averaging $6,427 in 2,988 theaters, the Rachel McAdams-Eric Bana flick shrugged off poor reviews and saw a 17% drop in sales from Friday to Saturday, indicate lukewarm word of mouth.

Conversely, Meryl Streep's Julie & Julia fell just 38% to $12.4 million in fourth. Budgeted at just $38 million, the Sony release has grossed $43.7 million in ten days.

Debuting poorly in sixth was the R-rated comedy The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, which took in $5.4 million in 1,838 theaters for a $2,911 average. Starring Entourage's Jeremy Piven, the film was slaughtered by critics.

Debuting in ninth with much fanfare from critics but not much love from audiences was Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki's latest film Ponyo, which took in just $3.5 million in 927 theaters. Averaging a modest $3,782 per theater, the film is just the latest in a line of critically-acclaimed and internationally popular Miyazaki releases that failed to find an audience in the U.S.

Thanks to a better-than-expected debut from District 9, the top ten films grossed an estimated $119.5 million, up 12% from last year's comparable frame when Tropic Thunder topped with $25.8 million.


hire said...

The film tailed off quickly and finished its domestic run with $80 million. i think its a great buzz.

greeneagles said...

District 9 proves once again that you do not need 150 to 200 million dollars to make a fantastic film when you have a great story and good actors. While big budget films like last year's The Dark Knight and this year's reboot of Star Trek can be delightful surprises, they tend to be the exception to the rule of summer blockbusters that rely on explosions and CG to drive their box office numbers.

District 9 is a film that I have taken the rare step of actively recommending to friends and family. It offers an unusual take on the standard science fiction alien genre. Action drives this film, but it is action that requires the viewer to think, to question, and to move from their comfort zone. Well beyond buzz, it is a solid film.