Box Office Ramblings: Thank God it’s District 9

As I prayed for so fervently, Peter Jackson produced sci-fi alien actioner “District 9” took first at the Box Office with $37.4 M this past weekend. I’m not trying to see to it that all films I like cash in at the box office, but like I said in my review, this is the kind of small budget great story film that you want to see more of in Hollywood. In other words, less “Transformers” (est. $200 M budget) and more “District 9” (est. $30 M budget). Hollywood needs as many examples as it can get of great stories getting turned into great films for cheap (“District 9” already surpassed its production budget), and that’s a real rarity these days for science-fiction films.

The competition wasn’t easy either, with date target “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” Will Ferrell/Adam McKay-produced comedy “The Goods” and Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s “Ponyo” hitting theaters and finishing in the top 10, but “District 9” endured the hype and it will be interesting to see what happens to it next week.

That doesn’t mean the box office was all things happy this weekend as far as I’m concerned. “G.I. Joe,” which was not screened for critics because of how they would tear it apart, moved down only one spot out of first and into second, taking in another $22.3 M and bringing its gross to nearly $100 M, doing what guinea pig kids actioner “G-Force” did in a month in just two weeks despite an older demographic. This is almost entirely counteracting the message of “District 9.” I haven’t see “G.I. Joe” and maybe I’ll take a fly on it on DVD, but when stuff like D9 is out there, nobody should be giving it a second look.

The biggest flop by far was “The Goods” starring Entourage’s Jeremy Piven as a used-car salesman with great coercive powers, with just $5.6 M. The effort just wasn’t there to promote this film other than the same exact commercial spots with the same clips as the one trailer, despite okay reviews from critics. Compare this a year ago to “Tropic Thunder” and the advertising isn’t even close in magnitude. Meanwhile, Judd Apatow’s comedy “Funny People” has fizzled out to No. 10 after only its third weekend ($3 M). Its gross is about $20 M short of budget, making it a rough summer for Judd after “Year One” and now this, though nothing choked like “Year One.”

Next week will be a competition to see if D9 can hold off Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” By comparison, Tarantino’s last big directorial feature was “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” which took just $20 M in 2003, so it could be close. Everyone else though should surely come in below it.

1District 9 (2009)$37.4M/$37.4M

2G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)$22.3M/$98.6M

3The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)$18.6M/$18.6M

4Julie & Julia (2009)$12.1M/$43.3M

5G-Force (2009)$6.92M/$99.1M

6The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009)$5.64M/$5.64M

7Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)$5.14M/$284M

8The Ugly Truth (2009)$4.45M/$77.5M

9Gake no ue no Ponyo (2008)$3.59M/$3.59M

10Funny People (2009)$3.01M/$47.9M

1 Comment

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