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Box office report: 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2' rolls past 'Rush', 'Don Jon' with $35 million debut

Four years after the original Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs stormed theaters, Sony’s $78 million sequel Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 topped the chart once again, earning $35 million in its first weekend. The film opened in an ultra-wide 4,001 theaters, and it notched a strong $8,748 location average.

The first Cloudy scored $30.3 million in its debut frame on the way to a $124.9 million finish. Most prognosticators were expecting Cloudy 2 to finish above the $40 million mark — in the same range as Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania, which opened last September with $42.5 million, the best September debut in history. Cloudy 2 finished a bit below that, but it still notched the fourth best September bow of all time behind Transylvania, Insidious Chapter 2 ($40.3 million), and Sweet Home Alabama ($35.6 million).

The film benefited from a lack of animated competition in the marketplace. Planes, the last animated title to hit theaters, debuted nearly two months ago, and moving ahead, Cloudy should endure quite well due to a dearth of family films in October. The next kiddie flick entering theaters is the Thanksgiving-themed Free Birds on Nov. 1. Thus, Cloudy, with its “A-” CinemaScore grade, should have no trouble playing to parents and children for weeks to come.

Last weekend’s champion, Prisoners, locked up another $11.3 million in its second frame, with a 46 percent drop from its $20.8 million debut last weekend. Warner Bros.’ $46 million revenge thriller, which stars Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, has now earned $39 million. Despite great reviews, though, the drama is facing serious competition from other well-reviewed adult fare such as Rush and Don Jon (and next weekend’s Gravity), which could limit its final box office potential.

That said, Ron Howard’s Formula One racing drama Rush raced off with a rather lackluster $10.3 million in its expansion from five theaters into 2,297 locations. The Universal-distributed film, which stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, marks a major decrease from Howard’s last sports drama, Cinderella Man, which punched up $18.3 million in its 2005 debut. For Hemsworth, Rush (obviously) started off slower than both Thor and The Avengers, but it also under-performed compared to his non-superhero vehicles The Cabin in the Woods ($14.7 million) and Red Dawn ($14.3 million). The film will need great word of mouth to drive it to profitability, and given its strong “A-” CinemaScore, it may achieve that. Also working in Rush‘s favor? Its relatively low $38 million budget.

Two newcomers rounded out the Top 5, though both finished the weekend with rather lackluster totals. The Paula Patton-starring romantic comedy Baggage Claim flew away with $9.3 million from 2,027 theaters, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s porn-addiction comedy Don Jon pulled in a more tepid $9 million from 2,422 theaters. Baggage Claim‘s  “A-” CinemaScore grade suggests it could find an audience in the weeks to come, though Don Jon’s weak “C+” grade may signify challenging word of mouth (despite strong reviews) down the road. Fortunately, Don Jon cost only $6 million to produce, so it should turn  a nice profit for Relativity. Fox Searchlight did not disclose the budget for Baggage Claim.

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – $35 million
2. Prisoners – $11.3 million
3. Rush – $10.3 million
4. Baggage Claim – $9.3 million
5. Don Jon – $9 million

Further down the chart, Eugenio Derbez’s Spanish-language comedy Instructions Not Included scored another $3.4 million from 948 theaters, for a remarkable $38.6 million cumulative total. The film surpassed Pan’s Labyrinth ($37.6 million) this weekend to become the highest-grossing Spanish-language film in U.S. box office history. It’s a major winner for young distributor Pantelion, a joint venture of Lionsgate and Mexican media company Televisa.

This weekend, Sandra Bullock’s ultra buzzy sci-fi thriller Gravity floats into theaters — as does the rather unbuzzy Justin Timberlake-Ben Affleck thriller Runner Runner. Check back to EW to see how both films fare at the box office.

'The Nut Job' trailer features Will Arnett as a plotting squirrel

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Aww nuts!

Will Arnett is a scheming squirrel in the new teaser trailer for The Nut Job, an animated film from Open Road Films that also features the voices of Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, and Katherine Heigl. The action-packed comedy follows the travels of the mischievous Surly (Arnett) and his rat friend Buddy, who plan a nut store heist and unwittingly find themselves embroiled in a much more complicated and hilarious adventure.

Watch the trailer below: READ FULL STORY

Make a movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt!

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Wanna make a movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt? All you need is a computer and a great idea.

With hitRECord, Gordon-Levitt’s ever-evolving collaborative production company, you don’t have to start in the mail room or cut your teeth as a personal assistant. You just have to create a profile on the totally free website hitRECord.org and start submitting your ideas, whether it’s a poem, a film, a piece of music or a drawing. Nearly all forms of art are fair game. You don’t even have to be the most popular user to catch the attention of Gordon-Levitt and his small core staff. You just have to be one of the best, which is actually a fairly big hurdle.

“I think the most important thing about anything that we make at hitRECord is ‘Is it good?'” hitRECord producer Jared Geller told EW. “At the end of the day, if the piece isn’t effective or entertaining, then it kind of doesn’t matter how it’s made. It becomes a gimmick. The method can’t be the most interesting thing about what you’re making. The piece itself has to be great.”

Check out the animated short below for an example of one of hitRECord’s most popular collaborations, and walk through the steps of how Gordon-Levitt helped turn the original poem into a Sundance Film Festival-worthy animated short, all through crowd-sourced creativity.
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Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg finally set to throw 'Sausage Party'

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg would like to invite you to a Sausage Party with all their famous friends.

The creative duo have agreed to make an R-rated animated movie “about one sausage’s quest to discover the truth about his existence. After falling out of a shopping cart, our hero sausage and his new friends embark on a perilous journey through the supermarket to get back to their aisles before the 4th of July sale,” according to a release from Sony.

Rogen and Goldberg co-wrote the script (along with Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir) based on a story from the pair and Jonah Hill, who will executive produce. Conrad Vernon (Shrek 2) and Greg Tiernan (Thomas and Friends) will direct.

Sausage Party is a project that Rogen and co. have been trying to get off the ground for years — Rogen and Goldberg were whispering about it at Comic-Con in 2010, and Goldberg once called it a “super dirty mockery of a Pixar movie.” Hill told MTV in 2010 that they envisioned it as something like Shrek, “If Shrek was R-rated, a very hard and aggressive R.”
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Fantastic Fest preview: Director E.L. Katz talks about his demented black-comedy 'Cheap Thrills'

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How crazy would you be prepared to get for $50? What about $500? What about a quarter of a million dollars? Such questions form the dramatic spine of the booze- and drugs-fueled black comedy Cheap Thrills, which is screening at this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. Anchorman star David Koechner and Sara Paxton play a rich couple who challenge a pair of much poorer new acquaintances — portrayed by Pat Healy and Can’t Hardly Wait actor Ethan Embry — to complete a series of ever more out-there challenges for increasing amounts of cheddar.

Cheap Thrills is the directorial debut of screenwriter Evan “E.L.” Katz, who penned the slasher movie Home Sick, the first film from You’re Next director Adam Wingard, and also co-wrote Wingard’s follow-up, the freakish, psychotropic Pop Skull. Cheap Thrills itself was written by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, but Katz says he found it easy to empathize with the cash-poor plight of Healy and Embry’s characters. “I’ve done a lot of dumb s— for money,” he admits.

Below, Katz talks more about Cheap Thrills, how Fantastic Fest helped make him the man he is today, and why he might soon become a big cheese in Brazil.
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'Peanuts' movie: Good grief, do we need a 3-D, CG-animated Charlie Brown?

Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Peppermint Patty will return to the silver screen in November 2015, timing that coincides with the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas, perhaps the most beloved cartoon in television history. But how will the new feature film — with 3-D, CG animation — compare to the hand-drawn charms of that 1965 small-screen classic? Or to the Charles Schulz comic strip that possessed an especially elusive brand of whimsy?

When Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip premiered in October 1950, it couldn’t have been more different from the comic strips stacked around it — among them Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon, and Roy Crane’s Captain Easy — and maybe that’s why the initial public response could be summed up as a national shrug. That changed, of course, and the strip became the untouchable but beloved titan of its medium appearing in 2,600 newspapers in 21 languages reaching a collective readership north of 350 million.

The brand remains a powerhouse (Schulz ranked with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe as far as posthumous moneymakers in pop culture), which set the stage for the film being made by Fox Animation’s Blue Sky Studios, the Connecticut  team behind the Ice Age hit films and Horton Hears a Who. To get some long-view perspective on the project and the property, we reached out to Andrew Farago, curator of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, and asked if CG will work for Peanuts.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s hard to get your arms around the singular and sustained success of Peanuts because it’s hard to find a comparison to it. Like Carson or Cronkite, Schulz had his own spot in the pipeline and that doesn’t happen now, really.

Andrew Farago: It’s hard to imagine any comic strip taking hold today the way that Peanuts has for several generations. Any 8- or 80-year-old knows what a security blanket is, or who Peppermint Patty’s best friend is, or “Good Grief!” and “Curse you, Red Baron!” Charles Schulz was beloved by millions — and that’s a conservative number — worldwide, and everyone knows Charlie Brown and Snoopy. If Schulz had been more comfortable in the public eye, he could have been another Walt Disney in terms of universal celebrity. But he was always about the work, and letting his characters speak for him, and I get the impression that’s exactly how he wanted it.
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Kit Harington of 'Game of Thrones' joins 'How To Train Your Dragon 2'

A crow is joining the world of dragons.

Kit Harington, who plays the Night’s Watch-man Jon Snow on Game of Thrones, will voice a new character in How To Train Your Dragon 2, DreamWorks Animation announced at Comic-Con today.

Also joining the sequel’s cast is Cate Blanchett, who played elven guardian Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, and Djimon Hounsou, best known as the enslaved warrior Juba in Gladiator.

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3-D hits an all-time low with 'Despicable Me 2'

Blockbuster sequel Despicable Me 2 earned $143 million over the extended Fourth of July weekend — and although its debut marked a high point at the summer box office, it also marked a low point for 3-D ticket sales.

According to Universal, only 27 percent of Despicable Me 2‘s opening-weekend gross came from 3-D tickets, the lowest 3-D share in modern box office history. Notably, the record low comes just two weeks after Monsters University notched a 31 percent 3-D share on its opening weekend, which at the time was the worst 3-D performance ever. Poor 3-D ticket sales aren’t just plaguing recent animated films, either. Brad Pitt’s live-action zombie thriller World War Z only earned 34 percent of its debut total from 3-D tickets, and The Great Gatsby fared even worse. Despite the fact that Baz Luhrmann’s use of 3-D was a primary selling point for Gatsby, 3-D ticket sales only accounted for 33 percent of its opening weekend.

These percentages mark a decisive downturn in 3-D’s popularity with American moviegoers, who have generally embraced the enhanced format over the last five years.

In 2009 and 2010, during the heyday of 3-D, films like Avatar (71 percent share), Alice in Wonderland (70 percent), and Tron Legacy (82 percent) added tens of millions of dollars to their opening-weekend grosses with 3-D ticket sales. Hollywood quickly doubled down on the format — sending the number of 3-D wide releases skyrocketing from 15 in 2009 to 36 in 2012. By 2012, though, it already appeared that 3-D was losing some of its luster, as the industry observed lower shares for films like Transformers: Dark of the Moon (60 percent), Thor (60 percent), and The Avengers (52 percent). These days, even highly anticipated box office titans like Iron Man 3 (45 percent), Star Trek Into Darkness (45 percent), and World War Z have trouble cracking the 50 percent threshold.

Family films have been hit particularly hard lately. Of course, it should be noted that they’ve never been quite as popular as live-action films in 3-D — presumably because it costs so much to purchase 3-D tickets for an entire family — but animated titles like Shrek Forever After (60 percent), Toy Story 3 (60 percent), and The Lorax (52 percent) did prove that moms and dads were willing to shell out big bucks on the format. Not so much over the past year, though. Recent films like Brave (34 percent), The Croods (38 percent) and, obviously, Despicable Me 2 haven’t connected with 3-D ticket-buyers despite the fact that they succeeded at the box office.

Many think the 3-D gimmick has lost — or is losing — its novelty due to over-saturation and shoddy execution, and Avatar director James Cameron agrees. “I do not think Hollywood is using the 3-D properly,” Cameron remarked at the TagDF conference in Mexico City last week. “Man of Steel, Iron Man 3 and all those movies should not necessarily be in 3-D,” he continued. “If you spend $150 million on visual effects, the film is already going to be spectacular, perfect.”

What do you think? Is the 3-D fad officially ending?

'The Boxtrolls' trailer: 'Families come in all shapes and sizes...even rectangles'

The trailer for The Boxtrolls, based on Alan Snow’s bestselling children’s novel Here Be Monsters!, hit the Internet Tuesday, giving moviegoers a quick preview of what to expect from Focus Features’s third animated feature. (They previously released Coraline and ParaNorman.) In sum: it’s simply adorable — and very well-timed.

The movie — which features the voices of Tracy Morgan, Toni Collette, Ben Kingsley and Jared Harris, among others — is about a group of underground trolls who, with help from an orphan they raised named Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Write), must go up against an evil townsperson (Kingsley) who wants to eliminate them.

The film’s trailer, which touts family diversity and even briefly features two pairs of same-sex parents, is in tune with political zeitgeist, coming on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision last week to strike down Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.  READ FULL STORY

'Monsters University': Pixar reveals Easter eggs and in-jokes

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When watching a Pixar film, it’s good to keep an eye open for hidden jokes.

Or two eyes, if you have them.

After Monsters University‘s debut last weekend, Pixar is now offering up a guide for fans who may have missed some of the hidden background gags.

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