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17 Aug 2009 13:11
SA-based film scores big in the US
District 9, a gritty, low-budget space alien movie set in South Africa with a cast of unknowns, opened as Hollywood’s number one film, grossing more at the box office its first weekend than it cost to make.
The sci-fi action thriller depicting extraterrestrials as unwanted immigrants stranded in Johannesburg took in $37-million in North America, distributor Sony Pictures said on Sunday.
It said District 9 cost less than $30-million to make, a modest budget by Hollywood standards.
The film was buoyed by rave reviews and a promotional blitz at the recent Comic-Con comic book convention, which fuelled strong pre-release interest among sci-fi fans.
The studio also touted the fact the movie, shot in a faux documentary style, was produced by Peter Jackson, the filmmaker behind the blockbuster Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The new film was directed and co-written by South African Neill Blomkamp, a protégé of Jackson who is making his feature directorial debut after a career of doing commercials.
The cast stars South African newcomer Sharlto Copley as a bureaucrat leading the forced eviction of alien creatures from a Johannesburg slum, District 9, where they have been settled since their ship stalled over the city 20 years earlier, marooning them on Earth.
The confrontation escalates quickly into a bloody struggle by the humans to gain control over the sophisticated weaponry of the crustacean-like extraterrestrials. The story was adapted from a short film, Alive in Jo’burg, which Copley had produced with Blomkamp as director.
Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures Entertainment, said the storyline and setting of the film obviously caught on with the mostly male, young movie-goers who made up its initial core audience.
“It’s so out-of-the-box different from most movies that you see from a major studio,” Bruer said.
“It’s kind of a rogue, raw, visceral film that has a life of its own.”—Reuters
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