Box Office Guru Preview: Semi-Pro Set To Slam Dunk The Competition

The Other Boleyn Girl, Penelope also opening.

by | February 28, 2008 | Comments

A triumvirate of films opens this weekend, but all will bow to the power of the mighty Will Ferrell and his latest outrageous comedy, Semi-Pro.

Will Ferrell storms the box office this weekend with his latest sports comedy, Semi-Pro. This time the funnyman takes on the world of professional basketball, following in the footsteps of 2007’s figure skating pic Blades of Glory and 2006’s racing flick Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. There is no question this kind of film is directly in Ferrell’s wheelhouse so he should slam another one out of the park – sorry, let me try that again… so this weekend should be a slam dunk for him.

Almost exactly a year ago, Blades of Glory opened with $33M on its way to a $118.5M final gross. In August of 2006, Talladega Nights opened with $47M on its way to $148M. The major differences between those two films and Semi-Pro is that the previous two were rated PG-13 while Semi-Pro has landed an R rating, and that people may be tiring of seeing Ferrell doing the same shtick over and over again. The rating will keep some of the young folks who dig Ferrell’s irreverent comedy, away from theaters. The shtick may keep some viewers away, but the fans will come out in droves and it shouldn’t hurt the overall grosses too much, as the film is the only major player in town. Opening on over 3,000 screens, Semi-Pro could gross $35M this weekend.

Will Ferrell as Jackie Moon in Semi-Pro.

Two other smaller films, both headlined by women, also open this weekend. First is The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. The film finds the two playing sisters, both trying to win the heart of the King of England. While both are critical darlings (and have a countless number of male fans), neither one is considered a big box office draw. Johansson’s biggest opening weekend (for a live action film) was 1998’s The Horse Whisperer, which opened to $13.6M. Portman of course starred in three episodes of the Star Wars saga, but if you exclude those films, her highest opening weekend was $25.6M for V for Vendetta back in March of 2006. That sounds reasonably impressive until you realize her next highest opening weekend for a film in which she had a leading role was last winter with Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium which opened with $9.6M.

The Other Boleyn Girl will likely cater to an audience of older women, although the joint star power of Johansson and Portman could bring in a somewhat younger crowd, as will Eric Bana who plays the aforementioned King. However the film opens on only about 1,000 screens and will likely get lost in the shuffle. While the film isn’t a romantic comedy and in fact has a twisted and scandalous storyline, there are no less than three romantic comedies still in the marketplace all of which cater to the same demographic. Look for The Other Boleyn Girl to open with around $5M.

The Boleyn girl and the other Boleyn girl.

The final new release this weekend is the long awaited Penelope starring Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon and James McAvoy. The movie tells the tale of a woman who is forced to hide a family curse which will only be lifted if she can find true love. The film has aspects of science-fiction and fantasy which makes it a little different than the other romantic comedies out right now, but even with Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon’s name attached, the film will most likely get buried. Opening on around 1,200 screens, look for Penelope to gross around $4M this weekend.

Christina Ricci as Penelope.

Last weekend’s champ Vantage Point will likely lose business to the Ferrell juggernaut, but should still have a reasonable hold this weekend. Look for the ensemble political thriller to fall around 40% to around $14M.

LAST YEAR: Disney jumped all over the box office with the smash Wild Hogs, which grossed $39.7M making it the largest opening in March history for a live-action film (until the following weekend when 300 shattered the mark). The critically acclaimed Zodiac debuted in second place with $13.4M. Two-time champ Ghost Rider grossed $11.6M, while a second Disney film, Bridge to Terabithia made $8.9M. Jim Carrey‘s crossover into horror, The Number 23, crashed 56% and collected $6.5M in its second weekend.

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