'Meatballs' is main course this weekend

Sony's 3D family toon looks to top boxoffice

Four well-targeted films hit domestic multiplexes Friday, but the weekend forecast suggests prospects are sunniest for Sony's 3D animated feature "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs."

Based on a popular children's book, "Meatballs" is rated PG and should appeal primarily to family moviegoers. An opening of $25 million-$30 million looks likely from prerelease tracking surveys, though Sony executives stress that they will be pleased even with the lower end of that range.

"It certainly will grab the families and should have appeal for the teens as well," Sony distribution boss Rory Bruer said.

Produced for less than $100 million, "Meatballs" will play on a record 1,828 3D screens and a total of 3,118 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.

Elsewhere among the new releases, Fox's Megan Fox-toplined horror pic "Jennifer's Body" appears headed for a second-place bow in the low-teen millions.

Expect 18- to 25-year-olds to display the most fervent embrace of "Body," which Karyn Kusama ("Aeon Flux") directed from a screenplay by Diablo Cody ("Juno"). Support likely will be split evenly between males and females.

The problem is, though males will come to see Fox, the so-so early buzz on the pic will keep those numbers underwhelming. Meanwhile, females tend to find Fox off-putting, mitigating their enthusiasm for the film's male-mauling premise.

Warner Bros.' Matt Damon starrer "The Informant!" also seems a bit at war with itself commercially.

Based on the true-life tale of Archer Daniels Midland whistleblower Mark Whitacre, the Steven Soderbergh-helmed pic is part comedy and part thriller. So, while the R-rated release is likely to skew older, a muddied marketing message might keep its opening to the low double-digit millions through Sunday.

Still, execs suggest that as an adult-oriented pic, "The Informant!" could prove a leggy release.

"It's a very unique, smart, well-done film," Warners distribution topper Dan Fellman said. "So it's a wonderful fall release that should have a nice long run."

Universal's romantic drama "Love Happens," starring Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston, totes a PG-13 rating. But with interest limited primarily to females, "Love" faces a challenge if it's to break out of the single-digit millions this session.

Co-financed by Relativity Media, production costs on "Love" totaled an estimated $18 million. So execs suggest the pic will be on track toward profitability even if it bows in the high-single-digit range.

Last weekend's boxoffice champ -- Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All by Myself," from Lionsgate -- also could figure in the scrap for the upper rankings. Perry pics occasionally post big sophomore-session drops, but a decent hold would put "Bad" into double-digit millions for the weekend.

On an industrywide basis, the frame will be compared with an $89 million weekend from last year that was topped by the $15 million bow of Sony's suspense pic "Lakeview Terrace." Industryites will be looking to get back into the win column after posting the first year-over-year downtick in seven frames last session.
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