Box Office Guru Preview: Odd Couples Invade Multiplexes

Tina and Amy take on Harold and Kumar for box office crown.

by Gitesh Pandya | Thursday, Apr. 24 2008

Two new buddy comedies enter the marketplace during the final weekend of the spring box office hoping to cash in on what business is left in the last week before Iron Man flies into theaters kicking off the summer blockbuster season. Targeting women is Baby Mama starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler while males get John Cho and Kal Penn reuniting in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Adding to the mix is the less commercial dramatic thriller Deception boasting a dynamic duo of its own - Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor. The overall box office will easily outperform last year's comparable frame which was one of the worst in all of 2007.

After finding success as a lead in the sitcom world, Tina Fey heads to the movie biz as the headliner in Baby Mama with frequent collaborator Amy Poehler at her side. The PG-13 film finds a successful and uptight businesswoman hiring a free-spirited underachiever to be the surrogate for her baby. Adult women over 30 will be the main audience here but male appeal is not so lacking though. Fey and Poehler have built up a fan following over the years since their Saturday Night Live days and aim to prove that it's not just men that come out of that camp to become box office stars.

Competition will be a factor as the second weekend of Universal's other adult-skewing comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall will tap into much of the same folks. And though it's a different kind of comedy, Harold & Kumar will have some level of impact too with those looking for a laugh. But reviews for Mama have generally been good plus the clever title and decent starpower will help pull in ticket buyers. Its strategic opening night slot at the Tribeca Film Festival this week also helped to generate lots of extra press. Debuting in 2,542 theaters, Baby Mama could open to roughly $13M this weekend.


Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Baby Mama

Four years after the first comic adventure comes Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay which brings together the two lovable stoners for a road trip across the South. The R-rated pic is the sequel to Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle which bowed to only $5.5M in July 2004 on its way to $18.2M. However, more moviegoers found the ground-breaking comedy on DVD growing the fan base enough to make a sequel. White Castle was such a well-liked film that Guantanamo Bay should bring in a much larger turnout upfront. But competition will play a part, as it did with White Castle. Baby Mama and Sarah Marshall are both rival comedy offerings and The Forbidden Kingdom has been popular with young men. Plus moviegoing in general tends to contract in late April so there will be less dollars to go around. Good reviews will help and having a built-in audience always bodes well at the box office. Landing in 2,510 locations, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay could make off with around $11M.


John Cho and Kal Penn Escape From Guantanamo Bay

Wolverine and Obi-Wan Kenobi uncover the mysterious world of underground sex clubs in Fox's new thriller Deception. The R-rated pic stars Hugh Jackman and Ewan McGregor plus adds some female starpower from Michelle Williams, Natasha Henstridge, and Maggie Q. Thanks to a generic title and a lack of marketing, Deception is sure to flop this weekend and make a quick trip over to DVD. The leads can sell tickets in other films, but this one packs no punch at all and boasts no commercial hook. The studio will be happy to write this one off and move on to its summer slate of potential hits. After all, that's what the last weekend of April is all about. Stumbling quietly into 2,001 unfortunate theaters, Deception could fool $4M from the wallets of ticket buyers.


Michelle Williams and Hugh Jackman in Deception

Last weekend, the Jackie-Jet adventure flick The Forbidden Kingdom won a hands down victory over the breakup comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall for the number one spot. While the difference between the two was nearly $4M, the gap will narrow significantly this time. Kingdom drew upon a fan audience on the first weekend so a heavier drop is likely while Sarah's more adult crowd didn't really need to rush out on the first frame to see the pic.

Lionsgate may see sales get sliced in half for the ancient Chinese tale leaving a $11M gross and a ten-day tally of $38M. Universal will not have it totally easy though. Competition from the weekend's new comedies, especially from studio stablemate Baby Mama, will cut into the numbers. Still, the well-liked Sarah might drop 40% to about $10.5M and push the cume to $35M after ten days.

Prom Night should suffer another sizable drop in its third killing. The Sony thriller looks to fall by 50% to around $4.5M and lift its 17-day sum to $38M.

LAST YEAR: It was the only weekend of 2007 when no film broke the $10M mark as studios refrained from opening any good films for fear of being pulverized a week later by the arrival of Spider-Man 3. By default, Disturbia claimed a third session at number one grossing $9M and dipping just 31% for Paramount. Of the new releases, Buena Vista's horror pic The Invisible fared best with a mild $7.7M debut in second place. Paramount's Nicolas Cage actioner Next limped into third with just $7.1M giving the action star one of his worst debuts ever. Final grosses reached $20.6M and $18.2M, respectively. New Line's crime thriller Fracture followed in fourth with $6.8M while Paramount's comedy hit Blades of Glory rounded out the top five with $5.2M. Late April spring cleaning also saw the dumpings of The Condemned ($3.8M opening, $7.4M final) and Kickin' It Old Skool ($2.5M, $4.5M) into the multiplexes.

Author: Gitesh Pandya www.boxofficeguru.com

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