"Meatballs" rolls to No. 1 at box office

Sun Sep 20, 2009 3:42pm EDT
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," a new 3D animated feature based on a popular children's book, shone brightest at the weekend box office in North America on Sunday, overshadowing flops starring Matt Damon, Jennifer Aniston and Megan Fox.

"Meatballs" earned an estimated $30.1 million during the three days since it opened on Friday, said Sony Pictures Animation, a unit of Sony Corp. Industry forecasters were looking for the film to open in the $25 million-$30 million range.

The film is based on the 1978 book by Judi and Ron Barrett, in which a nerdy outcast invents a device that sends hamburgers, pizzas and pancakes dropping from the heavens. The voice cast includes Bill Hader, Anna Faris and Neil Patrick Harris, the host of Sunday's Primetime Emmy Awards.

"It's visually spectacular, but more importantly it's very funny and just like an amusement park ride," said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony.

The film cost about $90 million to make, he said. It also opened at No. 1 in Britain and Mexico, although sales data were not available.

Meanwhile, Damon and Aniston suffered their worst openings in years with "The Informant!" and "Love Happens," respectively. "Jennifer's Body," the headlining debut of "Transformers" hottie Fox, was dead on arrival.

'INFORMANT!' MUTED

"The Informant!" -- a Steven Soderbergh-directed comedy-drama based on the true story of a mentally disturbed government informant played by Damon -- opened at No. 2 with $10.5 million. Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, had hoped the well-reviewed movie would open in the low-teen millions, but noted that it cost just $20 million to make.

Damon's previous low was the $9.9 million start for his Christmas 2006 release "The Good Shepherd," which went on to earn $60 million.   Continued...