Box Office Guru Preview: Lost and Hangover Deliver the Laughs

Also: Nia Vardalos delivers My Life in Ruins

by | June 4, 2009 | Comments

It’s a comedy battle at the North American box office as Will Ferrell takes on his Old School director in a vicious fight for the silver medal. Universal’s Land of the Lost puts the funnyman in Hollywood’s latest remake of a television show while Todd Phillips helms the raunchy post-bachelor party laugher The Hangover. Adding to the mix is the release of the tour guide comedy My Life in Ruins. All three films aim to challenge current champ Up from Disney/Pixar which hopes to become the first animated film in over a year to repeat at number one.

Dinosaurs and lizard men take on Will Ferrell and company in the adventure-comedy Land of the Lost opening Friday as the weekend’s widest launch. The PG-13 film hopes to utilize the comedy star’s box office pull and the film’s special effects to draw a broad audience during the summer, a time when moviegoer standards tend to go down. Older fans of the Sid & Marty Krofft show may be curious to see this new version and certainly Ferrell has a built-in audience of fans that are usually reliable. Where it will get tricky is with kids which the film wants to court. Racy language and sexual situations may make parents think twice about bringing their younger children. Plus with Up and the Night at the Museum sequel set to steal away over $50M in combined ticket sales, that segment of the crowd will be tough to secure.

Critics have slammed Lost, which should come as no surprise to anybody. This is escapist entertainment targeting those looking to check their brains at the door so reviews won’t have too much impact. Ferrell’s opening weekend grosses are usually tied to how funny the trailers and commercials are. Recent debuts include $30.9M for Step Brothers, $33M for Blades of Glory, and $15.1M for last year’s misfire Semi-Pro. Comedy competition from Hangover will hurt too, but the early summer play period and special effects should help Land land in the higher end of his range. Opening in 3,520 theaters, Land of the Lost may take in about $29M this weekend.

Will Ferrell and co. in Land of the Lost

R-rated comedies need a few good ingredients in order to sell – an intriguing premise, raunchy jokes that push the envelope, and if possible, some star wattage to pull in the crowds. Warner Bros. has plenty of the first two with its latest release The Hangover which follows three men on a race against time to find their groom buddy who’s gone missing in Las Vegas the day after his big bachelor party. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis star in the men-behaving-badly film which comes from director Todd Phillips who found great success in similar territory with 2003’s Old School.

Reviews are rock solid which will help older teens and adult audiences give this one a try. And every bit of help will be needed since none of the leads has opened a hit on his own before. The lack of starpower may make some hesitate at first, but strong word-of-mouth for this crowd-pleaser will kick in very quickly giving the studio a promising run in the weeks ahead. Openings for recent R-rated comedies include $17.8M for I Love You, Man, $19.2M for Role Models, and $17.7M for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. With college students out for the summer, Hangover should do better. Males will be out in good numbers, but female appeal is solid too. Plus with most competing films aging or being too young-skewing, the Vegas clan will win big points with twentysomethings. The biggest gross of the year for a third-place film may also result. Waking up in 3,269 locations, The Hangover could debut with about $23M this weekend.

Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and friend in The Hangover

Adding a few more laughs to the marketplace is Fox Searchlight’s Greece-set pic My Life in Ruins starring Nia Vardalos whose only hit was the 2002 sleeper smash My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The PG-13 Ruins co-stars Richard Dreyfuss and will play to an older and more female audience. Though Wedding became a pop culture sensation seven years ago, audiences have not displayed much love for Vardalos as her short-lived CBS sitcom My Big Fat Greek Life died a quick death in 2003 and her film Connie and Carla bombed a year later opening to only $3.3M. Reviews have been dismal for Ruins and overall excitement is not high. Plus the marketplace is filled with too many other bigger options for summer moviegoers to spend their money on. Debuting in 1,164 theaters, My Life in Ruins might take in about $4M this weekend.

Nia Vardalos in My Life in Ruins

Despite all the new funny flicks hitting the multiplexes on Friday, Disney and Pixar have no intentions of giving up the number one spot. The toon hit Up has continued to attract solid sales during the week with $6.3M on Monday and $6.4M on Tuesday on its way to what should be a $92M opening week. That would rank third among this year’s biggest blockbusters behind Star Trek which grossed $104.6M in 7.5 days and X-Men Origins: Wolverine which took in $102.6M in 7 days. Pixar’s summer films usually enjoy solid sophomore frames. Second weekend drops were 49% for WALL•E (disrupted somewhat by Fourth of July holiday activities), 38% for Ratatouille, 44% for Cars, and 34% for Finding Nemo. With Up‘s sensational word-of-mouth, and little direct competition for younger kids, look for a 40% decline. That would give the flying house pic about $41M for the weekend and a ten-day total of $132M.

The only other film likely to reach double-digit millions is Ben Stiller‘s comedy sequel Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Fox’s big-budget summer gamble should lose some business to and looks to fall by 45% to about $13M. The cume would rise to $125M. Fading quickly is Terminator Salvation which should follow its 61% tumble with another 55% decline. Warner Bros. would see roughly $7.5M in three days and boost the total to a mediocre $105M.

The horror flick Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi‘s first non-Spidey movie in a decade, failed to capitalize on its exceptionally strong reviews last weekend and was met with a run-of-the-mill fright debut. Though it had no scary movies competing against it, the Universal title couldn’t break $16M in the first three days. A 55% tumble could occur this weekend giving Drag around $7M and a $28M sum in ten days. Paramount’s hit Star Trek may slide by 40% to about $7.5M boosting the hefty cume to $222M and counting.

LAST YEAR: The supercharged box office saw four films topping $20M each leading the top ten to a stunning $170M led by the opening of Kung Fu Panda with $60.2M. The Paramount release flexed major muscles with a domestic final of $215.4M and a stellar global haul of $632M. Opening in second was Adam Sandler‘s latest comedy You Don’t Mess With the Zohan which bowed to $38.5M on its way to $100M for Sony. Rounding out the top five were Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with $22.8M, Sex and the City with $21.2M, and The Strangers with $8.9M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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