Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was always going to top the weekend box office but Sony surely couldn't have expected it to win by such a margin. The family animation was the No 1 picture on an estimated $30.1m (£18.6m) haul and finished almost $20m ahead of Warner Bros' second-placed The Informant! By all accounts Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is very good for what it is (ie strictly for kids) and should stick around for a while.
On the broader stage, Quentin Tarantino made history this weekend as Inglourious Basterds overtook Pulp Fiction to become his biggest hit in North America on $109.9m. Strange really, because this is arguably his least satisfying movie. Remarkable what an experienced marketing department can do with the name of Brad Pitt. Inglourious Basterds is now also Tarantino's biggest international – ie outside North America – hit. There are still 22 territories to go so this one's got a lot of life left in it.
Three new releases underperformed. Leading up to its premieres in Venice and Toronto there was a fair amount of buzz over Steven Soderbergh's The Informant! However Matt Damon's idiosyncratic turn as a whistleblower didn't kill with its charm and the Warner Bros movie opened in second place on $10.5m. Opening in fourth with $8.5m was Universal's romance Love Happens, with Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart. Now if you're going to choose a name like that it had better be a damn fine movie, otherwise people won't get past the fact that the title sounds like an admonishment. Alas the fates decreed that Love Happens would not follow the former path. And then there was Jennifer's Body from Fox Searchlight, the high school horror-comedy boasting a sexy cast (well, if you're 15) of Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, plus a screenwriter with an Oscar to her name – Juno's Diablo Cody. Jennifer's Body tanked in fifth place on $6.8m and it will be interesting to see if savvy Searchlight can turn this one around.
The real story
This is the kind of weekend cinema owners love. Terrified by the inexorable rise of VOD and the devastating distraction of video gaming, they have in 3D and Imax two solid reasons to keep bums on seats. There's a lot to be said for the communal 3D experience and audiences have shown themselves willing in recent times to shell out a few extra dollars for the privilege. Roughly half of the money made by Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs came from 3D screens and about $2.5m came from 127 Imax venues. Good luck to the cinema owners because it's only a few more years until affordable 3D home entertainment systems come to market. It's already happened in select Japanese households.
The dark horse
Jane Campion's chronicle of the love affair between John Keats and Fanny Brawne, Bright Star, has been declared an Academy Award contender on the strength of its recent reception at the Toronto international film festival. It is being released by Apparition, a new company co-founded by marketing whizz Bob Berney, and if he can translate the movie's artistic heft into commercial clout those Oscar chances will only get stronger. Bright Star got off to a good, albeit limited start this weekend, grossing $190,000 from 19 venues.
MGM opens its Fame remake next weekend. Genre fans will have a field day when Overture launches the sci-fi horror Pandorum starring the magnificent Ben Foster, who was Russell Crowe's sidekick in 3:10 to Yuma, and Dennis Quaid. Bruce Willis and a hilarious toupee are in action too in the sci-fi thriller Surrogates from Disney's Touchstone label. Clive Owen stars as a widow with two sons in The Boys Are Back, comfortably Scott Hicks's best movie since Shine. Miramax is giving it a limited launch ahead of a possible awards run.
North American top 10, 18-20 September
1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, $30.1m
2. The Informant! $10.5m
3. Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, $10.1m. Total: $37.9m
4. Love Happens, $8.5m
5. Jennifer's Body, $6.8m
6. 9, $5.5m. Total: $22.8m
7. Inglourious Basterds, $3.6m. Total: $109.9m
8. All About Steve, $3.4m. Total: $26.7m
9. Sorority Row, $2.5m. Total: $8.9m
10. The Final Destination, $2.4m. Total: $62.4m