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Soft Opening for Apatow, Sandler at Box Office

Apatow dramedy drops 15% from opening day; second-place ”Potter“ pops in 3D

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


Its two-hour, 16-minute Judd Apatow dramedy “Funny People” opened to $23.4 million this weekend, which which was good enough to lead the domestic box office. However, with the film declining 15 percent on Saturday from its $8.6 million opening Friday, it didn’t quite achieve the breakout success that some tracking estimates had predicted. Nor did it hit the box office of Apatow’s last directorial effort, 2007’s “Knocked Up” ($30.7 million).


Landing in second place: "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," resurgent after the delayed 3D IMAX debut on Wednesday. The sixth in the "Potter" series, it took in $17.7 million, just a 40 percent drop from week two.


With its domestic total now standing at $255.5 million, “Potter” 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.”


As for "Funny People," Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal, said early prognostications – which had put the $70 film above the $25-million mark for its first weekend — were unreasonable, given the subject matter. In one of his more serious offerings, Adam Sandler stars as a terminally ill comedian.


“The big day next week will be Saturday," Rocco told TheWrap. "I think this movie, like a James L. Brooks film, will evolve, and I think it will find an audience.”


If so, 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 percent this weekend and finishing with a domestic total of $255.8 million; Disney’s “The Proposal,” meanwhile, was down only 24 percent 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.”


Disney’s "G-Force" is doing just that.

The 3D film, a mix of CGI and 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 percent drop-off from its opening, to finish in third place.


“Any time in today’s marketplace when a movie falls less than 50 percent 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.