By Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK, Sept 29 (Reuters) - The sequel to"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" devoured the weekend boxoffice competition.
The animated 3D "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2," whichtells the story of monster-sized fruits, vegetables andcheeseburgers that come to life as "foodimals," earned $35million at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to studioestimates on Sunday, easily beating all competitors.
"Cloudy 2" outpaced car racing drama "Rush," which pulled in$10.3 million from Friday through Sunday to finish third, behindlast week's winner, drama "Prisoners" starring Hugh Jackman,which made $11.3 million.
The "Cloudy" sequel features the voices of Bill Hader andAnna Faris and is a follow-up to a 2009 hit that saw thefictional island of Swallow Falls attacked by giant food thatplunges from the sky. In the new installment, the food comes tolife and evolves into "foodimals" that include a hippopotamus,eggplanatee and cheespider, a cheeseburger with sesame-seed eyesand french-fry legs.
Some forecasters projected "Cloudy 2" would gross up to $45million, though Sony said it expected a lower debut of between$30 million and $35 million. The movie cost $78 million toproduce.
"This is just a fantastic start," said Rory Bruer, SonyPictures' worldwide president of distribution.
"We knew that people really loved the film from our earlyscreenings, and it's one of those times that the sequel isbetter than the first one," he said.
Bruer also predicted that the film would resonate withaudiences overseas, saying: "I'm certain it's going to do evenbetter internationally."
"Rush," from Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, tells thestory of the 1976 battle for the Formula One racingchampionship. Chris Hemsworth stars as Englishman James Hunt andDaniel Bruhl as his rival, Austrian Niki Lauda.
The movie expanded to nearly 2,300 theaters after a verylimited debut a week ago. It was produced for $38 million byCross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media and distributed byUniversal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp.
Nikki Rocco, president for domestic distribution atUniversal Pictures, said: "Although we started out on the lowend of where we thought we would be, strong exit polls and goodword-of-mouth will help it find its niche in the weeks to come."
"Rush" won strong reviews from critics with an 88 percentpositive rating from compendium website rottentomatoes, and anA-minus grade from CinemaScore, which polls moviegoers.
"Prisoners," starring Jackman as a father on a desperatesearch for his missing daughter, brought its domestic salestotal to $39 million after two weekends. The movie, which toppedbox office charts when it debuted a week ago, was released byWarner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc.
New romantic comedy "Baggage Claim," distributed by FoxSearchlight, a unit of 21st Century Fox and starringPaula Patton as a woman on a 30-day quest to find a mate,finished in fourth place with $9.3 million.
Raunchy comedy "Don Jon" debuted in the weekend's No. 5 spot with $9 million. The movie stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as ayoung man whose pornography addiction interferes with hisrelationship with a young woman, played by Scarlett Johansson.Gordon-Levitt also wrote and directed the film, which RelativityMedia acquired for $4 million.
- Hugh Jackman