Box Office: 'Cloudy 2' Tops Friday With $9.3 Million for $35 Million-Plus Weekend

8:04 AM PST 09/28/2013 by Pamela McClintock

UPDATED: "Rush" and holdover "Prisoners" battle each other for No. 2, followed by a close race between "Baggage Claim" and "Don Jon."

Fueled by families, Sony's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is on course for a solid $35 million-plus opening after topping the Friday box office with $9.3 million. Some had thought the 3D animated pic would cross $40 million, although Sony had always given a lower number.

The $78 million sequel opens four years after the first Cloudy turned into a surprise hit for Sony Pictures Animation, debuting to $30.3 million in late September on its way to grossing $245.8 million worldwide. Cloudy 2 is benefiting from being the only fresh family offering in the marketplace.

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Cloudy 2 is a needed boost for Sony after a dismal summer, and opens just days after Sony showed its global head of marketing Marc Weinstock the door. Digital marketing president Dwight Caines is replacing Weinstock, although Caines will only spearhead domestic campaigns.

The weekend's three other new nationwide entries -- Rush, Baggage Claim and Don Jon -- will see more modest results. In an unusually good showing, Cloudy 2, Rush and Baggage Claim all received an A- CinemaScore from moviegoers. Don Jon, despite good reviews, was the odd-man out with a C+.

Ron Howard's Formula One drama Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, is expected to gross $10.9 million as it expands nationwide after opening in New York and Los Angeles last weekend. That puts it in a close race with holdover Prisoners, which is projected to earn just north of $11 million for the weekend.

Howard's well-reviewed film took in $3.7 million on Friday, while Prisoners -- starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal -- grossed $3.4 million.

Rush, independently financed by Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media for $53 million before tax rebates, faces a tremendous challenge in the U.S., where Formula One has never caught on. Universal is distributing the film in the U.S., while Entertainment One is releasing Rush in Canada. The well-reviewed film has already begun rolling out in Europe, where it has earned $14 million to date.

From an original script by British writer Peter Morgan, Rush recounts the real-life battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda for the 1976 F1 championship. It is only the second independent film Howard has made after his first film, Grand Theft Auto (1977).

Fox Searchlight's comedy Baggage Claim, targeted toward African-Americans, is expected to open in the $9.5 million range, putting it in a neck-and-neck contest with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial effort Don Jon. Gordon-Levitt also stars in psycho-sexual dramedy opposite Scarlett Johansson.

Directed by David E. Talbert, Baggage Claim stars Paula Patton as a woman who embarks on a 30,000-mile expedition to convince a suitor to marry her so that she isn't the only single person in her family. Taye Diggs and Derek Luke also star.

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Don Jon also debuts in theaters Friday after making its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where Relativity Media acquired U.S. rights for $4 million. The film, which had to be toned down in order to receive an R-rating, was financed and produced by Voltage Pictures for $5 million to $6 million.

Opening exclusively in select Imax theaters is Metallica: Through the Never, a thriller-concert hybrid that heralds the return of Bob Berney's Picturehouse label. The movie is expected to gross between $2 million and $3 million for the weekend from 308 theaters.

In Through the Never, Dane DeHaan is a roadie whose surreal mission to retrieve an item for the heavy metal band is set against concert footage from the band's August 2012 tour.

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