Box Office Guru Wrapup: Sandler Tops Potter for #1 Spot

Chuck and Larry sitting in a tree, B-O-X-O-F-F-I-C-E-K-I-N-G.

Adam Sandler scored the ninth number one opening of his career with his latest comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry which edged out former champ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the top spot at the North American box office. The frame's only other wide opener Hairspray enjoyed a magical debut of its own with a strong third place bow. Overall, moviegoers spread their dollars around as for first time in more than three years, four films grossed over $20M each over the same weekend.

Universal won a slim box office victory with the launch of Chuck and Larry which grossed an estimated $34.8M to lead the frame. Debuting in 3,495 theaters, the PG-13 pic about two straight firefighters who pretend to be gay for the domestic partner benefits averaged an impressive $9,950 per location. Though a solid first place performance, Chuck and Larry also delivered the worst opening for one of Sandler's broad live-action comedies since the 2000 flop Little Nicky. His more dramatic turns in films like Spanglish and Reign Over Me have attracted modest openings, but his mainstream laughers typically debut near the $40M mark. Sandler still stands a good chance of earning a $100M blockbuster for the sixth consecutive year.

Falling down one spot to the runnerup position was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which grossed an estimated $32.2M in its sophomore session. Down a steep 58%, the Warner Bros. release lifted its 12-day cume to a stunning $207.5M. Second weekend declines are typically large for high-profile tentpole films. Phoenix's drop was a bit smaller than the 62% for both Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which each debuted on a Friday in May. However, it was larger than the drops for fellow midweek openers Live Free or Die Hard and Transformers which witnessed sophomore declines of 47% and 48%, respectively.


The new Potter film had to compete with the arrival of the seventh and final wizard book on Saturday which appealed to the exact same audience and probably kept many away from the multiplexes. Still the gross to date compares favorably to the $201M that the last film Goblet of Fire generated by the end of its second weekend in November 2005. That tally however was over two fewer days but did have the benefit of the Thanksgiving holiday. With the summer playing period, Phoenix stands a good chance of matching the $290M of Goblet and could even crack the $300M mark. Together with Transformers, that would give this summer a record five megablockbusters crossing the $300M threshold.


Helped by monster openings in Japan and Russia, the fifth wizard tale grossed a staggering $100.8M overseas this weekend to boost the international tally to $351.3M. That puts the global box office for Order of the Phoenix at a towering $559M after only 12 days. This weekend the Harry Potter movie franchise also crossed a major milestone as the global box office for all five films combined shattered the $4 billion mark.


New Line attracted a large audience to its musical comedy Hairspray which opened better than expected at number three with an estimated $27.8M. Playing in 3,121 houses, the PG-rated film averaged a stellar $8,907 and gave the studio its best opening in two years. Hairspray earned rave reviews from critics and starred a diverse cast that allowed the marketing team to target different audiences. Hollywood veterans John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer helped bring in adult moviegoers, Amanda Bynes and Zac Efron caught the attention of teens, Queen Latifah helped give the film appeal to African American moviegoers, and newcomer Nikki Blonsky hit the talk show circuit making everyday Americans feel they too can win their shot at movie stardom. Many audience segments found something here to like.

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