July 31, 2009 / 12:44 AM / 9 years ago

"Funny People" laughing loudest at box office

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - It’s shaping up as a tale of two genres at the weekend box office in North America.

Adam Sandler poses at the premiere of his new comedy film "Funny People" in Hollywood July 20, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

A trio of studios will be singing “We Are Family” again, but the No. 1 picture is likely to be “Funny People,” a new R-rated comedy that extends another recent theatrical trend.

The family-friendly films “G-Force,” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” nabbed three of the top five spots last weekend, so one might think that the moms-and-kids segment is saturated. But so far this summer, parents have shown boundless enthusiasm for rounding up the tots for a couple hours of air-conditioned diversion.

Fox’s family-targeting adventure fantasy “Aliens in the Attic,” which opens Friday, mixes computer-animated extraterrestrials into predominantly live-action shenanigans. Originally scheduled for a spring bow, “Aliens” — then titled “They Came from Upstairs” — was delayed after the studio decided to tweak its screenplay and visual effects. John Schultz (“The Honeymooners”) directed the young ensemble cast.

“It’s summertime, and I think there’s plenty of interest for a picture like this,” Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said.

Prerelease tracking indicates “Aliens” might do best with boys, opening with $11 million-$13 million through Sunday. That’s just below the expected range for the second weekend of Disney’s family adventure fantasy “G-Force,” which ruled the box office last session, and Warner Bros.’ “Half-Blood Prince,” whose third frame will be bolstered by an expansion to 160 Imax venues.

But this weekend’s box office crown is likely to be worn by a comedy bearing a restricted rating — like the other two pictures in last weekend’s top five, “The Ugly Truth” and “Orphan.” Universal’s “Funny People” — a Judd Apatow-directed dramatic comedy starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann — appears a lock to open north of $20 million.

How much higher is the subject of much speculation. Industry forecasts have been unusually errant this summer, and “Funny” is considered a picture whose fate is tied to word-of-mouth from its earliest audiences.

So a positive reaction among Friday patrons — spread via Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. — could prove particularly key toward the picture’s sustaining momentum Saturday and Sunday.

With a running time pushing 2-1/2 hours and a story involving a stand-up comic with cancer (Sandler), “People” isn’t the most obvious sort of Apatow comedy. But it has been drawing relatively positive early reviews, and broadly solid prerelease interest appears strongest among male youngsters.

Produced for an estimated $70 million, “People” is the third Apatow-helmed picture after “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” “Virgin” opened in August 2005 with $21.4 million, en route to ringing up $109.4 million domestically; “Knocked Up” bowed with $30.7 million and registered $148.8 million in total domestic coin.

The weekend’s third wide opener is a horror picture with modest aims. The Freestyle-distributed “The Collector,” starring Josh Stewart (“The Haunting of Molly Hartley”) appears headed for a bow in the single-digit millions. Freestyle co-founder Mark Borde said “Collector” targets younger males, unlike last weekend’s horror release “Orphan,” which skewed heavily female in fetching $12.9 million from its first frame.

Editing by Dean Goodman at Reuters

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