Alien action film "District 9" tops box office

Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:53pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "District 9," a gritty, low-budget space alien movie set in South Africa with a cast of unknowns, opened as Hollywood's No. 1 film, grossing more at the box office its first weekend than it cost to make.

The sci-fi action thriller depicting extraterrestrials as unwanted immigrants stranded in Johannesburg took in $37 million in North America, distributor Sony Pictures said on Sunday.

It said "District 9" cost less than $30 million to make, a modest budget by Hollywood standards.

The film was buoyed by rave reviews and a promotional blitz at the recent Comic-Con comic book convention, which fueled strong pre-release interest among sci-fi fans.

The studio also touted the fact the movie, shot in a faux documentary style, was produced by Peter Jackson, the filmmaker behind the blockbuster, Oscar-winning "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

The new film was directed and co-written by South African native Neill Blomkamp, a protege of Jackson who is making his feature directorial debut after a career of doing commercials.

The cast stars South African newcomer Sharlto Copley as a bureaucrat leading the forced eviction of alien creatures from a Johannesburg slum, District 9, where they have been settled since their ship stalled over the city 20 years earlier, marooning them on Earth.

The confrontation escalates quickly into a bloody struggle by the humans to gain control over the sophisticated weaponry of the crustacean-like extraterrestrials. The story was adapted from a short film, "Alive in Joburg," that Copley had produced with Blomkamp as director.   Continued...

<p>A scene from TriStar Pictures' sci-fi thriller DISTRICT 9. REUTERS/Courtesy of TriStar Pictures/Handout</p>