'District 9' tops boxoffice

'G.I. Joe' finishes the weekend in second

Sony's sci-fi actioner "District 9," a tale of extraterrestrial refugees, touched down atop the weekend boxoffice with an estimated $37 million opening that stretched the outer limits of prerelease projections.

Paramount's special ops actioner "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" -- battling five wide openers over its second outing -- dropped a manageable 59% from its week-earlier tally for $22.5 million in second place, as 10-day cume reached $98.8 million. Warner Bros.' female-targeting literary adaptation "The Time Traveler's Wife" bowed about as expected in third, with $19.2 million.

Sony's foodie-magnet "Julie & Julia" -- another soph-session holdover -- fell just 38% while whipping up $12.4 million in fourth place, with a $43.7 million cume. But the frame's other wide releases had bland debuts: Paramount Vantage's R-rated laugher "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard" rung up $5.4 million in sixth place, Disney's Japanese animated feature "Ponyo" found $3.5 million in ninth and Summit Entertainment's high school comedy "Bandslam" scrounged $2.3 million outside the top rankings.

A collective $119.5 million from the session's top 10 grossers marked a 12% improvement over top films from the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI. The solid industry performance from an oft-sleepy mid-August session represented the second consecutive year-over-year weekend uptick after four down sessions.

Among limited releases, Sony Pictures Classics unspooled the musical doc "It Might Get Loud" in seven theaters and grossed $101,078, or an auspicious $14,439 per venue.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Fox Searchlight's romantic comedy "(500) Days of Summer" added 231 playdates for a total of 1,048 to woo $3 million. That represented a so-so $2,886 per engagement, as cume for this year's top-grossing platform pic rose to $18 million.

"Adam" -- another Searchlight romantic comedy -- added 46 locations for a total of 66 and fetched $214,000, or an acceptable $3,242 per site, with a cume of $525,000.

And Samuel Goldwyn/IDP's Paul Giamatti-toplined comedy "Cold Souls" added 14 theaters for a total of 21 in grossing $71,400, or a sturdy $3,400 per venue, with cume of $167,947.

Produced by Peter Jackson and helmed by commercials director Neill Blomkamp for an estimated $30 million, Sony's Tri-Star label acquired distribution rights on "District 9" for $25 million.

The R-rated pic drew mostly positive reviews, which helped to broaden its opening appeal in spite of the film's graphic violence. A viral marketing campaign featuring clever billboards and other signage also seemed successful.

Set in Johannesburg, "District 9" involves an encampment of extraterrestrial visitors and their poor treatment by humans. Heavily promoted at the recent Comi-Con confab in San Diego, the pic attracted opening audiences skewing 64% male, with 57% of patrons aged 25 or older.

"This one feels really good," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "You had a raw, visceral film that's unlike a picture you'd usually see from a major studio, and it has this viral, organic life to it."

"Time Traveler's" is rated PG-13 and based on the novel of the same name by Audrey Niffeneger. Directed by Robert Schwenkte ("Flightplan"), it stars Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.

Opening audiences were 76% female, with 67% of patrons aged 25 and older in a demographic profile overlapping greatly with Meryl Streep-Amy Adams starrer "Julie & Julia."

"We're very happy," Warners president Dan Fellman said. "People over the years have talked about August being a dumping ground, but there happen to be a lot of good, solid movies this year."

"Goods" stars Jeremy Piven and Ving Rhames as hard-driving car salesmen. Males aged 18-35 were considered the pic's target audience.

"The film was presold internationally and was inexpensive to produce, netting a low risk for the division in keeping with its business model," a Par spokeswoman said.

Already a hit in Japan, Hayao Miyazki's "Ponyo" was dubbed for English with a voice cast featuring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and 9-year-old Noah Cyrus in her feature debut as the titular goldfish. Execs said they were pleased with the debut performance of "Ponyo," which played in a barely wide 927 locations.

"There is no question it played very well in pure family theaters and in upscale theaters," Disney distribution boss Chuck Viane said.

Rated PG, "Bandslam" was co-produced by Walden Media and pulled in mostly tweens.

"We are disappointed in the results this weekend, and as always will regroup to try and examine what went wrong," Summit distribution topper Richie Fay said.

Looking ahead, three films open in wide release Friday: Warner Bros.' family fantasy "Shorts," Fox's youth comedy "Post Grad" and the Weinstein Co.'s military drama "Inglourious Basterds." Also, Disney has scheduled its "X Games 3D: The Movie" for wide release on a one-week-only basis.