In what has shaped up to be a side-by-side heat check of two of the bigger box-office forces in recent years, Sony's "Grown Ups" — featuring Sandler in his loveable, bankable goofball mode — debuted to solid $14.5 million Friday, exceeding pre-release tracking.
The PG-13-rated ensemble comedy, shot for just over $70 million, is on pace to surpass $40 million this weekend, according to studio estimates.
Cruise, meanwhile, saw his Fox action-thriller "Knight and Day" meet its downer tracking, finishing a distant third Friday with $6.4 million. Premiering Wednesday to a soft $3.8 million, the James Mangold-directed thriller, shot for $107 million and co-starring Cameron Diaz, has now grossed $13.6 million.
"Knight and Day" should have around $25 million by the time its initial five-day premiere is finished — not where Fox hoped to end up, but where all the empirical data said it would.
Both new films finished behind week two of Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 3," which dropped a robust 56 percent Friday but still had enough in the tank to finish with $17.9 million. The 3D film will easily surpass the $200 millon mark this weekend.
Here's a look at the top 10 at Friday's domestic box office:
"Toy Story 3" ($17.9m)
"Grown Ups" ($14.5m)
"Knight and Day" ($6.4m)
"Karate Kid" ($4.7m)
"The A-Team" ($1.8m)
"Get Him to the Greek" ($985,000)
"Shrek Forever After" ($854,000)
"Prince of Persia" ($861,000)
"Jonah Hex" ($600,000)
Like Tea Party candidate touting smaller government and looser gun regulations in Alaska, it’s unwise to bet against Adam Sandler when he plays to his base.
And once again, playing true to a summertime formula that tends to yield subpar reviews, but domestic ticket sales in the $100 million range, Sony is set to release the latest Sandler comedy, “Grown Ups,” into 3,534 theaters Friday.
Reviews are, well, terrible, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring the film in the 13 percent fresh region. But the tracking suggest the PG-13-rated ensemble comedy will do what Sandler films tend always do when the comic keeps the tone light-hearted – open to over $30 million.
With the weekend’s only wide-opener starting out Wednesday – Fox’s Tom Cruise action-comedy “Kight and Day” opened to a soft $3.8 million – Sony officials believe “Grown Ups” will perform similarly to Universal’s 2007 comedy “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” which also teamed Sandler with Kevin James.
“Chuck and Larry” debuted to $34.2 million on the way to a $186.1 million worldwide gross.
In the Dennis Dugan-directed “Grown Ups,” which was shot for just over $70 million, Sandler’s former “Saturday Night Live” alums, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Chris Rock, are also along for the ride, in a kind of comedic twist on “The Big Chill.”
Speaking of chill, the domestic market hasn’t so far hasn’t embraced Cruise’s return to action-dom, even though tough-to-please critics like the L.A. Times’ Kenneth Turan haven’t necessarily been cool to “Knight and Day.”
With tracking for the three-day weekend period hovering in the mid-to-high teens, the James Mangold-directed film looks like a longshot now to take in more than $30 million in its first five days.
Fox shot the film for $107 million.
So far, the negative buzz hasn’t been directed so much at Cruise, but the film’s marketing campaign, which rival studios say hasn’t defined the film or played up its strengths.
“How do you have an outdoor (campaign) that sells some schizo, frenetic splash and color?” noted one rival-studio official. “And who decided it was best to go with the faceless silhouettes in lieu of using images featuring great art of the biggest stars in the world?”