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Weekend Report: Humans Welcome ‘District 9'

by Brandon Gray
District 9
 

 
August 17, 2009

Many humans ventured into District 9 over the weekend, propelling the alien spectacle to an excellent $37.4 million start, while another science fiction-themed picture, The Time Traveler's Wife, had a solid debut. Though the weekend's other new movies disappointed, overall business was up 14 percent from the same weekend last year, when Tropic Thunder opened in first.

Launching on approximately 4,000 screens at 3,049 sites, District 9's estimated opening attendance was slightly less than Cloverfield and slightly more than Starship Troopers among past comparable movies. The picture was sold not only as a sci-fi action horror with striking visuals but also as a dramatic mystery, taking a different approach than recent, more disaster-oriented alien invasion movies with a plotline concerning a segregated alien race. One way the marketing helped the picture stand out was through posters done up as signs from the world of the movie, marking bus stops and other areas as "humans-only" or offering a toll-free number to report "non-human" activity. Distributor Sony Pictures' exit polling reported an audience composition of 64 percent male and 57 percent aged 25 years and older.

The Time Traveler's Wife pulled in $18.6 million on around 3,200 screens at 2,988 sites. The fantastical romantic drama sold more tickets initially than The Notebook and The Lake House, but fewer than City of Angels and Meet Joe Black among similar pictures. Based on a reportedly popular novel of the same name, Wife was a bit of a change of pace like District 9, distinguishing itself as the first and only dramatic romance of the summer. Distributor Warner Bros.' research indicated that 76 percent of the audience was female and 67 percent was aged 25 years and older. The marketing presented a straight forward romantic drama with the time traveling as the complication for the attractive lead actors, Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. For Ms. McAdams, the picture was a return to the same genre as audience favorite, The Notebook, and it delivered her highest-grossing opening in a starring role.

Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in The Time Traveler's Wife

The three other new nationwide releases were non-starters. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard moved few tickets over the weekend, opening to $5.6 million at 1,838 sites, or about the same as Hot Rod two Augusts ago. The comedy was pitched as a starring vehicle for Jeremy Piven and featured other familiar supporting actors from recent comedy hits, but the milieu of wacky used car salesmen wasn't compelling enough to make this a theatrical must.

Hailed as the "next masterpiece" from Hayao Miyazaki in its advertising, Japanese blockbuster Ponyo floundered with $3.6 million, failing to gain domestic traction just like the previous Miyazaki features despite his largest release yet (927 sites).

Bandslam became the latest rock 'n' roll-themed picture to flop, mustering a meager $2.2 million at 2,121 sites or even less than The Rocker from last August. School of Rock was the exception in this sub-genre, and all Bandslam's marketing offered was teenagers vaguely playing rock music (but with no specific tunes) and some vague teen romantic comedy elements, as if that were enough to make this look cool to the young people it was targeting.

Last weekend's top gun, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, retreated 59 percent to $22.3 million, lifting its total to $98.6 million in ten days. The picture continued a typical action trajectory with a second weekend drop that was about the same as the first Fantastic Four but steeper than XXX.

Julie & Julia had a passable hold, dipping 40 percent or less than No Reservations at the same point, but with a higher gross. It made $12.1 million for a $43.3 million tally in ten days.

G-Force rounded out the Top Five with $6.9 million, easing 30 percent for a $99.1 million total in 24 days. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince stayed within the franchise norm with its 42 percent slide to $5.1 million, increasing its tally to $283.9 million in 33 days.

Grossing $4.4 million for a $77.5 million haul in 24 days, The Ugly Truth surpassed the final tally of 27 Dresses. Meanwhile, Funny People sank by another 62 percent to $3 million for a quiet $47.9 million in 17 days, and (500) Days of Summer began to trail Garden State's attendance at the same point, down 21 percent (despite expanding) to $3 million for a relatively good $17.9 million in 31 days.

Last Weekend
'G.I. Joe' Doesn't Roll Snake Eyes

This Timeframe in Past Years:
• 2008 - 'Tropic Thunder' Rolls Into Top Spot
• 2007 - 'Superbad' Scores
• 2006 - 'Snakes on a Plane' All Hiss and No Bite
• 2005 - 'Virgin,' 'Red Eye' Fly High for Rising Actors

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Weekend Box Office Results
All Time August Opening Weekends
Alien Invasion Movies
Time Travel Movies



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