Updated Saturday, 7:42 a.m.:
"Tower Heist" is climbing toward a soft opening weekend.
The movie took in $8 million on Friday and is on track to gross $25 million for the weekend, early studio estimates show. Box-office watchers had predicted the Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy comedy would open to as much as $35 million.
If the estimates prove correct, DreamWorks Animation's "Puss in Boots," which grossed about $7.8 million on Friday, will take $28 million for the weekend. That would make the movie No. 1 in its second week in release. "Tower Heist" would be No. 2.
New Line's "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas," meanwhile, grossed an estimated $5.4 million on Friday and is positioned to meet weekend expectations by taking in $14.4 million — enough to put it in third place.
Do you like buddy comedies?
Well, it's your big weekend at the domestic box office, with not only the caper film "Tower Heist" from the master of the buddy genre, Brett Ratner, rolling to theaters, but also another "Harold and Kumar" sequel.
Arriving in 3,367 locations, Universal's "Tower Heist" — which was co-financed with Relativity at a cost of around $85 million — is predicted by box-office watchers outside the studios to take in as much as $35 million this weekend.
Featuring a multi-star ensemble cast — Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe, Alan Alda and Judd Hirsch — and produced by Brian Grazer, the film focuses on a group of working stiffs who seek caper-esque revenge on the Wall Street firm that stole from them.
Reviews have been pretty OK — 60 percent on aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes — and tracking is fairly strong.
Among all four major audience segments — men and women under and over 25 — 81 percent of moviegoers polled reported some awareness that "Tower Heist" is coming out this weekend, according to research firm NRG, while 45 percent said they have "definite interest" in seeing the movie. About 12 percent of individuals polled said it's the first choice to see next time they're at the movies.
"Our tracking numbers have popped nicely," said Nikki Rocco, president of distribution for Universal. "A lot of the reviews are great. And people are talking about the movie."
For its part, Universal expects to gross somewhere between $25 million – $30 million with "Tower Heist" this weekend.
The movie opens day-and-date in 21 overseas territories, including the U.K., Germany, Hong Kong, Sweden, Austria, Taiwan, Spain, India and South Africa.
Meanwhile, opening in 2,875 theaters, New Line's third "Harold and Kumar" film, the not-so-seasonally-titled "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas," arrives in 2,875 locations in the U.S. and Canada.
The $19 million R-rated bud 'n' buddy comedy re-teams John Cho and Kal Penn, their characters growing apart as they grow older, only to be reunited by the power of potent marijuana, hijinks and Scooby snacks.
Neil Patrick Harris returns to play, well, himself.
Reviews are solid for a stoner film, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring the movie at about 69 percent fresh as of late-day Thursday.
Tracking is smokin', too: among men younger than 25, 82 percent report awareness, 58 percent convey definite interest and rightous 21 percent call it their first choice, according to NRG.
Both of the previous "Harold and Kumar" movies have been modest successes, with 2008's "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo" grossing $43.5 million on a $12 million production spend.
With a $30 million pricetag, we'll have to wait and see if this dime bag is worth the money.
One thing's for sure — the Oscar ballots can be left at home this weekend.