'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2' was No. 1 at the box office this weekend.
(Photo: Sony Pictures Animation via AP)
(USA Today) -- The box office forecast turned out to be cloudy with a chance of millions.
The animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, the inevitable sequel to the 2009 hit, coasted to the top of the charts at theaters this weekend with $35 million, according to studio estimates.
The debut met most analysts' expectations and ends September, a normally sluggish month at the box office, on a flourish.
Gitesh Pandya of Boxofficeguru.com says that Meatball's debut underscores "the hunger families have right now for something compelling to see with the kids."
Critics didn't find Meatballs that tasty, as just 58% of the nation's film reviewers gave it a thumbs-up, says pollsters Rottentomatoes.com. But 80% of moviegoers liked it, the site says, a good sign the film could show legs through the fall.
Reagen Sulewski of Boxofficeprophets.com says that the original film quietly built up goodwill with adults four years ago.
"Here's the crucial part," Sulewski says. The first film "was actually good and/or tolerable for parents, which is the real secret audience for family films."
Parents and other adults also will propel ticket sales for the remainder of the year as studios gear up for the holidays and Oscar season. Two possible early awards contenders, Ron Howard's racing thriller Rush and Hugh Jackman's crime drama Prisoners, jockeyed for the silver medal this weekend.
Prisoners, last week's winner, took second place with $11. 2 million. Rush took third with $10.3 million in its first weekend of national release.
The comedy Baggage Claim was fourth with $9.3 million.
Don Jon, the raunchy comedy and directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, took fifth place with a respectable $9 million.
Final figures are due Monday.