'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs'
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs'

The weekend box office took a drop after several weeks of decent business as a series of new openers fell short of the two from last year. The top 10 totaled about $92 million, down from 2013's $103 million, and the year to date total has slipped back to about equal to last year.

Four new wide releases split up the grosses, with a decent performing (though not spectacular) "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" (Sony) leading the way, grossing more than the other three new films combined--Universal's expansion of "Rush," Fox comedy "Baggage Claim" and Relativity's "Don Jon." With the second weekend of "Prisoners" (Warner Bros.) down just under 50%, the combined under-performance across the board took its toll. (Last year, "Hotel Transylvania" opened to $42 million, "Looper" to $20 million.)

Two narrowly-released films thrived just under the top 10: Fox Searchlight's "Enough Said" grossed $2,115,000 in only 227 theaters, for a per screen average a little below $10,000, a terrific response. Picturehouse's 3-D concert film "Metallica Through the Never" totaled $1,673,000 on 305 IMAX screens. More on both films in Arthouse Audit.

All eyes now are on "Gravity" and its anticipated big opening next weekend. But if things aren't turned around soon, the big gains made over the summer could be lost as business continues to tread water.

1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sony) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 58

$35,000,000 in 4,001 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,748; Cumulative: $35,000,000

Placing as the fourth best animated opening of the year (after "Despicable Me 2," "Monsters University" and "The Croods") and opening $5 million better than the first "Cloudy" release in 2009 (the earlier film ended up at $124 million domestic, about double that worldwide), this looks like a solid if not spectacular opening. It is $7 million under what "Hotel Transylvania" (also Sony) did exactly a year ago (on its way to $148 million).

Luckily for Sony, this is an unusual case where the reported budget came down for the sequel ($78 million compared to $100). Still, this is not the smash that might have been hoped for ("DM2" and "Monsters U," both sequels, both opened over $80 million) and fell short of some optimistic industry predictions for a $40 million-plus weekend.

What comes next: The good news: this has little competition  for the kids' market over the next month or so, allowing it to thrive as the default family choice. This should help get it to $100 million.

2. Prisoners (Warner Bros.) Week 2 - Last weekend #1

$11,270,000 (46-%) in 3,290 theaters (+30); PSA: $3,426; Cumulative: $38,954,000

Falling somewhat more than an adult-oriented fall drama should its second weekend ("Argo" only fell 15%, "Moneyball" and "The Town" also less than 40% in recent years) even without a lot of strong new competition, this still managed to beat out all but "Cloudy." "Prisoners" should easily hit $60 million or more domestically (and earn a good deal more worldwide), a more positive result with its reported $46 million budget as long as international comes through.

What comes next: With Warner's own "Gravity" leading the charge next week, there is major competition ahead for this among the review-oriented audience.

3. Rush (Universal) Week 2 - Last weekend #38

$10,300,000 (+5,407%) in 2,297 theaters (+2,292); PSA: $; Cumulative: $10,600,000

A disappointing widened run for Ron Howard's acclaimed Formula 1 film, which is still not performing nearly as well as its initial review and festival attention suggested. The audience seeing it seems to like it - its Cinemascore, taken this weekend, is A- - so the issue seems to be more the lack of big name stars and resistance to car racing as an appealing plot.

Ron Howard has been one of the most reliable commercial directors for decades. Even his unremarkable Vince Vaughn/Kevin James comedy "The Dilemma" managed a near-$18 million opening weekend in 2011, far better than this performance.

Universal has U.S. rights for this, with others distributing internationally. So far those totals are already approaching $20 million, with much more to come. Universal's challenge is to find the right marketing tools as they figure out how much more this can do, and whether it could still loom as an awards contender. For the producers, the thrifty $38 million budget means they likely will be fine.

What comes next: How this holds next weekend -- against "Gravity" opening - -will be a key factor in determining whether this still can be a domestic success.

4. Baggage Claim (20th Century-Fox) NEW - Cinemascore: A-; Criticwire: C-; Metacritic: 34

$9,300,000 in 2,027 theaters; PSA: $4,588; Cumulative: $9,300,000

Fox Searchlight's attempt to target Tyler Perry's audience (with distribution handled by big Fox) opened up below what that multiple threat creator's films usually do, with an OK but not spectacular gross that still managed to be in the same ballpark as two other wide releases this weekend.

Playwright-turned-director David Talbert previously wrote and directed "First Sunday" for Sony, which grossed $17.7 million its first weekend in 2008 at slightly more theaters, on its way to a $39 million total. This comedy with an African-American cast stars Paula Patton as a flight attendant who decides to reconsider several exes as she worries about her single status. She's been quietly building a strong resume, with "2 Guns," "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," "Jumping the Broom" and "Precious" over the last few years. But even with costars like Derek Luke and Taye Diggs, this lacks the appeal of even a lesser Tyler Perry release.

Searchlight has tried similar films occasionally over the last decade, most recently "Just Wright" (2010) which opened to $8.3 million and ultimately $21.5 million, with "Johnson Family Vacation" (2004) the most successful ($9.4/$31.2). Coincidentally, Stephen Wolfe, one of the producers, had the same role with "(500) Days in Summer," which advanced the career of "Don Juan" creator Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

What comes next: With its lower (sub $20 million) budget and the potential to hang in for a few weeks this still has a shot at minor success, though nothing like what Tyler Perry usually achieves.

5. Don Jon (Relativity) NEW - Cinemascore: C+; Criticwire: B; Metacritic: 65

$9,000,000 in 2,422 theaters; PSA: $2,422; Cumulative: $3,716