March 1, 2008 / 11:13 PM / 10 years ago

Ferrell sports comedy misses mark at box office

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Will Ferrell’s latest sports comedy ran afoul of moviegoers and is on track to become one of his worst performing movies, according to preliminary sales data issued on Saturday.

“Semi-Pro,” in which the comedian plays the flamboyant owner of an underdog team in the now-defunct American Basketball Association, opened at No. 1 with estimated earnings of $5.45 million on Friday, tracking firm Box Office Mojo said.

It is on track to earn about $14 million for the Friday-to-Sunday period, based on the multiples for his last two sports spoofs, 2007’s “Blades of Glory” and 2006’s “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Industry observers had expected “Semi-Pro” to open above $20 million for the weekend.

That would make it his worst opening since the $13.4 million start for the quirky black comedy “Stranger Than Fiction” in November 2006. But that movie opened on 2,264 theaters, while “Semi-Pro” is in 3,121 theaters.

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

“Blades of Glory” earned $33 million during its first weekend, and “Talladega Nights” $47 million. Both those had teen-friendly “PG-13” ratings, while “Semi-Pro” was hampered by an “R” for language and some sexual content.

The film was released by Time Warner Inc’s New Line Cinema, where officials were not immediately available for comment. After a string of costly duds, most recently “The Golden Compass,” New Line is being downgraded to a unit of Time Warner’s Warner Bros. Pictures studio. It’s a grim fate similar to the one faced by Ferrell’s fictional Flint Tropics ABA team.

Elsewhere last weekend’s champ, the assassination thriller “Vantage Point,” was No. 2 on Friday with $3.7 million. “The Other Boleyn Girl” opened at No. 3 with $2.8 million, in line with modest expectations for the Scarlett Johansson-Natalie Portman royal romp. Both movies were released by Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.

The studios will issue weekend estimates on Sunday.

Reporting by Dean Goodman

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