"You'll laugh until you throw up," warns Sony's worldwide president of distribution Rory Bruer about his studio's new comedy "This Is the End."
He was kidding, hopefully, but that take seems appropriate for Seth Rogen's raunchy and gross R-rated comedy, which is getting a two-day jump on "Man of Steel" at the box office, hitting theaters nationwide Wednesday. Sony will get the ball rolling with screenings starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at 2,300 theaters, before expanding to 3,055 locations.
The waves of online buzz surrounding "This Is the End" will translate into box office success, the analysts say, projecting around $30 million over the five days, despite the debut of Warner Bros' Superman reboot on Friday. If there's a question regarding its box-office fate, it's how it will go over in Middle America.
"This Is the End" combines very low-brow humor with a very high concept (no "Pineapple Express" pun intended).
The plot from Rogen and Evan Goldberg revolves around James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Michael Cera playing obnoxious versions of themselves and dealing with the end of the world — at a party. Rihanna, Emma Watson and Mindy Kaling make cameos.
"This may be an apocalyptic horror-comedy-drama, but it's also an insider Hollywood movie, and those don't usually play outside the bigger cities," said Exhibitor Relations VP and senior analyst Jeff Bock. "It will be interesting to see if Apatow's Avengers are big enough names to make this work as a straight comedy in the mainstream."
Judd Apatow isn't directly involved with "This Is the End," but his influence can be felt, with many of the featured players having collaborated with him on films including "Superbad," "40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" and TV's "Freaks and Geeks."
"I don't think this will do 'Superbad' numbers," Bock said, "because while this will attract the hipper kids, I don't know that it will be in the wheel-house of teenagers in Iowa." "Superbad," also written by Goldberg and Rogen, took in $120 million in 2007.
Sony doesn't need "This Is the End" to be a blockbuster, since the production budget is just $32 million. And Bruer didn't seem worried about connecting with the Heartland, or anywhere else for that matter.
"This movie is the best marketing tool we could have," he said. "It's an amazing ensemble cast and it's honestly among the funniest movies I've ever seen."
The Wednesday opening should help, Bruer said.
"The word of mouth on this movie has been and will be great, and the extra two days should give us some real momentum for the weekend."