Ferrell basketball comedy bombs at box office

Sun Mar 2, 2008 2:59pm EST
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By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - He shoots. He ... misses.

Will Ferrell stumbled at the North American box office on Sunday with his latest sports comedy, "Semi-Pro."

The basketball spoof narrowly took the No. 1 spot with disappointing ticket sales of $15.3 million, its struggling distributor New Line Cinema said.

Industry observers had expected the movie to open above $20 million. It falls well short of the $33 million debut of Ferrell's 2007 ice-skating comedy "Blades of Glory" and the $47 million bow of his 2006 NASCAR outing "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."

"Semi-Pro," which cost $57 million to make, stars Ferrell as the flamboyant owner of a fictional underdog team in the American Basketball Association, the renegade league taken over by the National Basketball Association in the 1970s.

New Line, also a renegade studio in its heyday, faces a similar fate. Its Time Warner Inc parent announced on Thursday that the 40-year-old studio would be absorbed by its bigger corporate sibling, Warner Bros. Pictures, after a string of costly duds, most recently "The Golden Compass."

A New Line official was not available for comment.

Observers said "Semi-Pro" was hurt by a restrictive "R" rating, which requires viewers under 17 to be accompanied by an adult. "Blades of Glory" and "Talladega Nights" both carried a teen-friendly PG-13 rating. "Semi-Pro" marked the feature directing debut of Kent Alterman, a former New Line executive.   Continued...

<p>Will Ferrell in a scene from "Semi-Pro". REUTERS/New Line Cinema/Handout</p>