The new Judd Apatow movie carried the perky title Funny People, but audiences quickly figured out it should really be called The Guy Who Thinks He’s Gonna Die and Isn’t Very Nice. Or Funny. It managed a decent $8.7 million on opening day, dropped 15% on Saturday and is expected to finish the weekend at $23.4 million. The good news for Apatow and his long-ago roomie Adam Sandler is that their film topped the weekend box office at domestic theaters. The bad news… where to begin? Funny People cadged the lowest take for any No. 1 film this year. Not just in the prime-time summer months we’re talking January. It was also Sandler’s poorest opener in five years, since Spanglish. And it earned a B-, or barely passing, from the Cinemascore poll of people who,d seen the movie. That’s not so funny.
Since his 2005 hit The 40 Year Old Virgin, when Apatow became a brand name, almost a genre, in roughhouse comedy, the films he’s produced have opened well and, more important, had staying power what the industry calls “long legs.” The final theatrical earnings for Virgin and Knocked Up were about five times their opening-weekend gross; and Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Pineapple Express made about four times their openers. People saw these movies, told their friends they were funny and made them hits. The new movie will be hard pressed to duplicate that word-of-mouth salesmanship. For most audiences, Apatow’s 2hr. 24min. attempt to encase a James L. Brooks-style comedy drama in an overflowing condom of penis jokes didn’t work. Instead of a Terms of Endearment, it’s more like Brooks’ last flop movie. Yep, Spanglish.
Funny People’s subpar returns dealt another body blow to its distributor, Universal Pictures. Big releases like Land of the Lost, Bruno, Duplicity and State of Play have all underperformed this year. Public Enemies has done OK, but with its $100 million budget the Johnny Depp crime melodrama hasn’t come close to making back its costs after five weeks in North American theaters, and is all but comatose abroad. The studio’s one ginormous 2009 hit is Fast & Furious, which has earned nearly $350 million worldwide on an $85 million budget. Except for the Vin Diesel movie, Universal is running on fumes.
Runner-up for the second weekend in a row, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince stanched its 62% dive last weekend with a more modest 40% tail-off, mostly thanks to the adding of 161 IMAX screens, where the price of admission is much steeper. Of the two sophomore entries, G-Force, Jerry Bruckheimer’s locked-and-loaded version of Alvin and the Chipmunks, came in third with $17.1 million; and The Ugly Truth, Katherine Heigl’s R-rated tryst witb Gerard Butler, plunged 53% to amass $13 million. Since the movie cost only $38 million to make, it’ll end up in the black. The financial future is gloomier for the comedy Aliens in the Attic, which opened in the basement at $7.8 million.
In indie action, the rom-com Days of Summer picked up $2.8 million and, at 266 venues, the weekend,s highest per-screen average among the top 60 releases, for a cume of $6,821,000. The bomb-squad thriller The Hurt Locker was right behind with a five-week total of $6,757,000. The weekend’s most highly acclaimed newbies the save-the-dolphins doc The Cove and the South Korean vampire-priest horror movie Thirst opened well, with about $55,000 each at four theaters.
This year’s total theatrical revenue is still about 10% higher than last year’s at the same time, and attendance is up nearly 8%, but the box office is slumping fast. This weekend’s take is expected to be down 25% from the same frame last year, when the top four movies grossed more than the top 10 this weekend. The studios frontloaded their prime merchandise, and now the shelves are getting bare. Note to moguls: Summer usually lasts for three months, whenever you decide it begins. So if you launch your blockbuster season on May 1, don’t be surprised if it ends on Aug. 1 right now. This defies business logic, since, in most parts of the country, school’s out and kids have nothing to do but see movies for another five weeks. It’s as if Hollywood has programmed its summer fare for the farm states.
Here are the studios, official weekend estimates for the top 10 movies, as reported by Box Office Mojo:
1. Funny People, $23.4 million, first weekend
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, $17.7 million; $255.5 million, third week
3. G-Force, $17.1 million; $66.4 million, second week
4. The Ugly Truth, $13 million; $54.5 million, second week
5. Aliens in the Attic, $7.8 million, first weekend
6. Orphan, $7.3 million; $26.8 million, second week
7. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, $5.3 million; $181.9 million, fifth week
8. The Hangover, $5.1 million; $255.8 million, ninth week
9. The Proposal, $4.8 million; $148.9 million, seventh week
10. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, $4.6 million; $388.1 million, sixth week
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