Jason Segel and Nick Stoller should give Universal the No. 1 movie in America this weekend with “The Five-Year Engagement,” an R-rated romantic comedy that the pair co-wrote.
“Engagement” is the story of a couple – Segel and Emily Blunt — that spends half a decade in the murky waters between getting engaged and actually tying the knot. It is expected to open at close to $20 million from 2,936 locations, though the studio would push the estimate a little lower.
Segal and Stoller (photo, left, with Blunt), who met on Judd Apatow’s “Undeclared” and worked together on “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Gulliver’s Travels,” last partnered on “The Muppets,” which earned a sequel by raking in $158 million worldwide.
“Engagement” won’t match that figure, but it only cost the studio around $30 million.
The film is tracking most strongly among women apparently eager to get another peek at Segel’s doughy figure. Overall, just four percent of filmgoers said it is their first choice, but 72 percent are aware of it.
It scored a 60 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and 63 percent on Metacritic.
None of the other movies opening this weekend is expected to match Universal’s latest offering, which is why “Think Like a Man,” the top grosser from last week, appears likely to take second with a mid-teens showing. That would represent a 50 percent to 60 percent drop, but the ensemble comedy should still pass the $50 million mark this weekend.
The Zac Efron-starring “The Lucky One,” a strong second last week, should dip to third, but could also end up neck and neck with a new film — “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.”
The Columbia Pictures flick, which follows a crew of amateur pirates voiced by Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek and others, is expected to bow in the $10 million-$12 million range. Co-produced by Sony Animation and Aardman Animation ("Chicken Run"), it has drawn strong reviews, charting an 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 72 percent on Metacritic.
Overseas audiences have already spent more than $55 million to see the film, which is roughly what it cost the studio.
The other two wide releases this weekend are Relativity’s “The Raven” and Lionsgate’s “Safe.”
The former, for which Relativity paid $4 million to distribute domestically, is tracking in the $8 million to $10 million range and opens on around 2,200 screens.
It stars John Cusack as the iconic poet whose eerie stories come to life as his own death nears. It has not garnered strong reviews, with an 18 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but tracking is solid. It has greater audience awareness than any of the new films save “Engagement” and 34 percent of those polled said they were definitely going to see it.
The marketing has been genre-focused, targeting horror and thriller fans, as well as the Hispanic market.
“Safe,” the latest Jason Statham action picture, is projected to open at around $8 million. Directed by Boaz Yakin, it stars Statham as a former cop who must rescue a young Chinese girl from Chinese gangsters and the Russian mob.
Statham’s box office track record is uneven, as his last two projects, “Killer Elite” and “The Mechanic,” both settled between $25 million and $30 million domestically. His strongest starring vehicle remains “The Transporter” franchise.
Lionsgate is handling U.S. and Canadian distribution for the IM Global-financed film.
The movie with the most buzz headed into the weekend, Disney and Marvel Studios' “The Avengers,” won’t bow until May 4. It has already opened the cash register overseas however, taking in $17.1 million from 10 markets in its first day of release on Wednesday. It spreads to a total of 42 foreign markets this weekend.