Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2: animation sequel chews up its rivals

Five things we learned about the US box office this weekend, including why franchises rule and the Spanish-language film that knocked Pan's Labyrinth off its perch

• Dane DeHaan: beat poet, Metallica roadie and, next, James Dean
• Sundance film festival 2013: Don Jon - first look review

Never bet against a number higher than one

You'll be familiar with the popular Hollywood adage, "Nobody knows anything", which begs the question: why would an investor go anywhere near the movie business? Be that as it may, we wish it to be known that this column reserves the right to contradict itself next week (or even next point) by saying the exact opposite of what it is about to state as a cast-iron rule of thumb. While it is true that as the numeral after a franchise title goes up, the movie's quality diminishes, it is still likely that box office returns will rise.

To wit, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 raked in $35m in a solid, No 1 debut that compares well enough with the September 2009 original's $30m opening weekend. Adjusted for inflation, that original score equates to roughly $33m today. The first Cloudy finished on $124m in North America and $243m worldwide. There is no reason why the sequel cannot improve on both results. That's a cast-iron prediction based on a comprehensive trawl of recent animation series, from Despicable Me ($251.5m in North America for the first one in 2010, followed by $361.8m for last summer's sequel) to Toy Story ($191.8m for the original in 1995, rising to Toy Story 3's $415m in 2010).

Instructions Not Included enters record books

The little engine that could from Pantelion, a distribution joint venture between Lionsgate and Mexico's multimedia company Grupo Televisa, has burst past Pan's Labyrinth to become the highest grossing Spanish-language movie at the US box office. Pan held the record for the past six years, ever since it topped out at $37.6m, but no more, Señor Del Toro. Instructions Not Included, the comedy-drama about a Mexican playboy who sets out to find his lovechild's mother, has edged ahead of Pan by a nose. The movie will remain active for at least a few more weeks – stretching the metaphor of anatomical supremacy to a face at the very least; perhaps even a torso – and while Lionsgate's communications apparatchiks will churn out several more press releases, you can rest assured we will not refer to this movie more than three, four or five times. Instructions now also ranks as the fourth-biggest foreign-language release in the US, behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life Is Beautiful and Hero.

Imax is mighty

Have we said this before? If we have, then the performance of Metallica: Through the Never merits a smug, trademarked catchphrase like 'WeAlreadySaidThis!' or 'See-eee?' Hmm, not a bad idea. Point is, Imax is big business and seemingly everything it tries its hand at these days turns to gold. For its latest trick, the big-screen specialist got hold of exclusive North American screens on a hip new pic for the entire first week of release. Nimród Antal's concert movie/roadie mystery, Metallica: Through the Never, arrived on 305 Imax-only screens and grossed $1.7m. It will expand on 4 October on to a further 300 screens to include conventional sites. Mark our words: it is a matter of time before a major Hollywood director requests his or her next release gets the exclusive, big-screen treatment.

Sundance hits don't always translate into theatrical hits

Park City audiences applaud anything at a world premiere. Literally anything. If we weren't struggling to control our breathing out there in the sub-zero, mid-altitude barren wastes of Utah, we'd be laughing our heads off. So it was no surprise when Don Jon, the raunchy first outing as feature director for new media poster-boy Joseph Gordon-Levitt nearly brought the house down last January. Relativity plonked down a $4m advance and pledged in the region of $25m in prints and advertising and almost eight months later, it opens at No 5 on a limp $9m. The movie itself is cute, but Sundance buyers need to recognise the hype for what it is and ask themselves, six months to one year later, will a couple at the tail-end of a working week want to part with $100 (parking, travel, babysitter, meal) to see it? We're going to call this the Sundance Conundrum and keep our fingers crossed that the Robert Ludlum estate comes calling to license the novel rights.

Hang on – who cares about theatrical when there's digital?

The Sundance Conundrum offers film-makers and distributors a solemn reminder about the pitfalls of treacherous theatrical distribution. But then there is the Sundance Side Shuffle, which taps into the broader possibilities of VoD (video on demand) and digital platforms. While Don Jon may be too racy for some filmgoers, dealing as it does with a cocky masturbation addict who hooks up with the sultry woman of his dreams, it is perfect fodder for the intimate setting of one's own home. The word in Park City after the deal went down was exactly how much money would this make across the ancillary platforms. So expect a limited theatrical play followed by riches. Ah, Hollywood. See what we said about not knowing anything?

North American top 10, 27-29 September 2013

1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, $35m
2. Prisoners, $11.3m. Total: $38.9m
3. Rush, $10.3m. Total: $10.6m
4. Baggage Claim, $9.3m
5. Don Jon, $9m
6. Insidious: Chapter 2, $6.7m. Total: $69.5m
7. The Family, $3.7m. Total: $31.7m
8. Instructions Not Included, $3.4m. Total: $38.6m
9. We're the Millers, $2.9m. Total: $142.4m
10. Lee Daniels' The Butler, $2.4m. Total: $110.3m

• More from Hollywood Report


Jeremy Kay

The GuardianTramp

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