Apatow Dramedy ‘Funny People’ Drops 15% from Friday Opening

“Potter” pops in 3D, claiming $17.7 million to finish in second place.

Last Updated: August 2, 2009 @ 11:53 AM

Badly in need of a breakout hit after successive misfires, Universal will have to keep waiting.

Its 216-minute Judd Apatow dramedy “Funny People” opened to $23.4 million this weekend, which was good enough to lead the domestic box office and in line with other Apatow openings.

However, with the film declining 15% on Saturday from its $8.6 million opening Friday, “Funny People” did not achieve the four-quadrant breakout success that some tracking estimates had predicted.

For her part, Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal, said such prognostications – which put the film above the $25 million for its first weekend — were unreasonable, given that “Funny People,” which stars Adam Sandler as a terminally ill comedian, represents a novel, far more serious offering from Apatow than audiences are used to.

“If you haven’t seen this movie, tracking numbers could be misinterpreted,” she said. “The big day next week will be Saturday. I think this movie, like a James L. Brooks film, will evolve, and I think it will find an audience.”

If “Funny People,” which costs a reported $70 million to make, is to find the legs Rocco suggests that it is capable of, it’s going to have to overcome lukewarm reviews, many of which have expressed concerns over length.

This summer, other R-rated comedies have found legs: Warner’s “The Hangover” remains in the top 10 after nine weeks, declining only 21% this weekend and finishing with a domestic cume of $255.8 million; Disney’s “The Proposal,” meanwhile, was down only 24% week-to-week and is now up to $148.9 million in North America.

“But you look at the creative (for ‘Funny People,’) and it suggested that this wasn’t the happiest of movies,” a rival studio source noted. “It’s a tough market for that kind of thing right now. People are looking for comedies that take them out of their situation and make them laugh.”

Certainly, lighter PG-rated fare, such as Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” is doing just that.

Buoyed by the long-awaited opening of the film in IMAX 3D theaters, the sixth “Potter” film enjoyed a resurgent weekend, finishing in second place with $17.7 million, just a 40% drop from week two.

With its domestic cume now standing at $255.5 million, “Potter 6” is pacing ahead of the franchise’s last installment, 2007’s highly successful “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which had garnered only $242 million after three weeks of release.

“As good as those numbers are, they would have been a whole lot better had the film been able to open in 3D upon availability,” said a rival studio source, noting that “Potter” was kept out of IMAX 3D locations until July 29 due to those outlets’ contractual arrangement with Paramount for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

Meanwhile, also sustaining itself well amid family audiences was Disney’s guinea-pig themed “G-Force.”

The 3D film, half CGI and half live action, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Will Arnett and Zach Galifianakis, and voice starring Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz and Tracy Morgan, took in another $17.1 million over the weekend, a 46% drop-off from its opening, to finish in third place.

“Any time in today’s marketplace when a movie falls less than 50% from its opening weekend, you’re pleased,” said Disney distribution head Chuck Viane. “We could see the strength in the midweek numbers – it was consistently up over $4 million each day.”

The staying power of “Potter” and “G-Force” left little room in the family market for Fox’s low-budget PG entry “Aliens in the Attic,” which opened to just $7.8 million and finished in fifth place.

Coming in fourth was Sony romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth” starring Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl. Taking in another $13 million in North America, “Truth” was down 52% from its premiere, but has now cumed $54.5 million on a production budget the studio says was $38 million.

On the indie front, horror film “The Collector” from Freestyle Releasing premiered to $3.4 million at 1,325 locations.

Expanding to 523 theaters for its sixth week of release, meanwhile, Summit Entertainment Iraqi war drama “The Hurt Locker” took in another $1.9 million and has now cumed $3.7 million.

And Fox Searchlight romantic comedy “500 Days of Summer” garnered another $872,000 at 266 locations to finish the weekend with a cume of $6.8 million.

Saturday update:

Universal’s R-rated Judd Apatow dramedy "Funny People" enjoyed only mild chuckles at this domestic box office Friday, opening to $8.6 million, according to studio estimates.

Tracking for the film, written, produced and directed by Apatow and starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, was strong going in, with all four quadrants showing pop and some estimates putting the film on pace for a $40 million weekend.
 
However, the film, which also came in with a reported $70 million production budget and middling reviews, is on pace for a $25.6 million weekend, leading the North American market. In 2005, Apatow’s first hit, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” opened to $21.4 million and ended up with a $177.4 million worldwide gross.
 
In second place, Disney’s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced, guinea-pig 3D film “G-Force,” registered $5.7 million Friday, only a 50% drop from the first day of its box-office-leading $31.6 million opening weekend last week.
 
In third place after three weeks of release, Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” added $5.7 million to its domestic take, setting it up to finish the weekend with a $254.4 total.
 
Buoyed by the North American opening of the sixth “Potter” movie in IMAX 3D theaters Wednesday, that’s an even faster pace than was enjoyed by the franchise’s fifth installment, 2007’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
 
The performance of PG-rated films “G-Force” and “Potter 6” left little of the family audience left over for Fox’s low-budget “Aliens in the Attic,” which opened to just $2.6 million, setting it up for a $8.5 million weekend. Fox sources indicated that they had hoped the film would open in the “double digits.”
 
In fourth place was Sony romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth,” which took in $4.4 million Friday, a 60% drop from its opening day a week earlier. The film, which the studio said cost only $38 million to produce, should finish the weekend with about $55.5 million secured domestically.
 
Here’s how the top 10 shaped up:
 
Funny People ($8.6 m)
G-Force ($5.7 m)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($5.2 m)
The Ugly Truth ($4.4)
Aliens in the Attic ($2.8)
The Orphan ($2.5)
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($1.7)
The Hangover ($1.6)
The Proposal ($1.6)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($1.4)

Thursday box-office preview:

It’s been a long summer for both Universal and Judd Apatow, but both parties hope to turn things around this weekend with the R-rated comedy “Funny People.”

Apatow, who had a producer credit on Sony’s "Year One,” which took in just $51.7 million worldwide in June, produced, wrote and directed “Funny People,” which stars Adam Sandler as a dying comedian looking to mentor and bond with an up-and-comer played by Seth Rogen.

The film, which has a respectable 62 score on Metacritic.com, arrives a week after another R-rated comedy, Sony’s poorly reviewed “The Ugly Truth,” opened to a surprising $27 million.

A similar performance for “Funny People” looks likely, based on tracking, which puts the weekend anywhere in the range from $25-$40 million.

“This movie is tracking strong with young males, but it has great balance across all quadrants,” said Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal. “We should end up north of $20 million on this.”

Released by Sony in a similar frame last year (August 6), the Apatow-produced “Pineapple Express” opened to $41.3 million on the way to a $101.6 worldwide gross.

Despite the similar R rating, Rocco dismisses it as a comparable benchmark for “Funny People,” noting, “This is Judd’s evolution into a different type of filmmaking — more of a James L. Brooks type of filmmaking. This is more of a dramatic comedy. Better comparisons would be ‘As Good as It Gets,’ ‘Spanglish’ and ‘Jerry Maguire.’ ”

While “Funny People” looks to take its share of the adult comedy market, Fox’s PG “Aliens in the Attic,” a low-budget family comedy featuring Kevin Nealon, Andy Richter and Tim Meadows, is looking to find a niche.

Tracking estimates place the movie’s projected take somewhere between $10 million-$12 million.

Last week, Disney family comedy “G-Force” was a surprise upset winner at the weekend box office, besting previous champ “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” with a $31.7 million opening.

"G-Force,” a CGI-live-action hybrid that earned about 57% of its opening revenue on 1,604 3D screens, is predicted to take in another $18 million, according to tracking estimates.

Warner Bros.’ sixth “Harry Potter” film, meanwhile, will pose 3D competition for the first time, opening wide in that format on IMAX screens across North America. (The film’s 3D premiere was delayed because the IMAX theaters were contractually obligated to run Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”)

On the independent front, Summit Entertainment war film “The Hurt Locker,” which has grossed $4.8 million in very limited release since June, will expand its run to 523 North American theaters.

Likewise, Fox Searchlight romantic comedy “500 Days of Summer” will up its location count after taking in $3.8 million since July 17.

New entries into the indie market this weekend include Fox Searchlight’s “Adam,” Sony Pictures Classics’ “Lorna’s Silence” and IFC Film’s “Flame and Citron.”