"Horrible Bosses" got off to a good start at the domestic box office Friday, grossing about $9.9 million, according to studio estimates.
The first-day total puts the $38 million Warner/New Line R-rated comedy on pace to meet pre-release forecasts of just over $25 million.
Another comedy debuting widely this weekend, Sony's "Zookeeper," grossed about $7.4 million. That's good enough to put the PG-rated Kevin James movie, produced by Adam Sandler, on pace to meet predictions of around $20 million. The film was produced at a cost of around $80 million.
Paramount's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" — which will once again lead the domestic market — also hit its weekend target, grossing $14.9 million in its second Friday, according to a rival-studio estimate. The Michael Bay-directed sequel is expected to bring in just under $50 million this weekend.
Overall, the market is off about 20 percent from the same weekend last year, which was led by Universal's "Despicable Me."
If any studio president has a rousing halftime speech, now would be the time to deliver it.
The domestic box office enters the second half of 2011 this weekend down 8 percent year to year, and coming off one of the least attended months of June on record, with only 128 million tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
The good news: It should be a pretty good weekend at the multiplex, with Warner Bros.' latest R-rated comedy, "Horrible Bosses," set to open up at 3,040 theaters domestically and tracking to bring in as much as $25 million over its first three days of release.
Also read: 'Horrible Bosses' Could Use a Bit More Horrible
Paramount's "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" will undoubtedly win the weekend, grossing somewhere between $40 million – $50 million, according to various forecasts.
Limited openings this weekend include Roadside Attractions' chimpanzee-based documentary "Project Nim," Terrence Howard thriller "The Ledge" from IFC and hip-hop music documentary "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest" from Sony Classics.
The new release with the biggest buzz going in, however, is the Seth Gordon-directed "Horrible Bosses," which stars Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx.
The film has solid reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring it at 81 percent fresh through mid-afternoon Thursday.
Tracking is good, too. According to research firm NRG, the film is registering lukewarm 77 percent total awareness across the four audience quadrants. But 36 percent of moviegoers surveyed indicate "definite interest" in seeing the film, while a 7 percent list it as their first choice at the multiplex.
"Zookeeper," meanwhile, has some of the worst reviews this side of the monkey cage, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring the $80 million family comedy, co-produced by Adam Sandler's Happy Madison, at 9 percent fresh.
Tracking for "Zookeeper" isn't bad, however, with the film registering 83 percent total awareness among all groups, according to NRG, and 30 percent of moviegoers surveyed saying they were interested in seeing the movie.
Of course, if "Horrible Bosses" and "Zookeeper" can't lift the box office this weekend, the eighth and final "Harry Potter" movie, which arrives in theaters next weekend, certainly will.