Prison comedy "Get Hard" and animated family film "Home" will compete for the top spot at the box office this weekend.
The Kevin Hart-Will Ferrell film "Get Hard," which is being released by Warner Bros., could pull in between $30 million and $40 million at the box office, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys. "Home," a DreamWorks Animation film, which is being released by 20th Century Fox, has a similar forecast of $30 million to $35 million.
"Get Hard," the directorial debut of screenwriter Etan Cohen ("Tropic Thunder"), cost $40 million to make. The film follows an uptight man, James King (Ferrell), who is sentenced to a long term in prison for an assortment of financial crimes. King seeks help in getting ready for prison from Darnell Lewis (Hart), who King wrongfully assumes has served time behind bars.
Hart has been a consistent comedic force at the box office in the last year, starring in films such as "Think Like a Man Too," "About Last Night" and "Ride Along." His latest comedy, "The Wedding Ringer," launched with a solid $20.6 million in the U.S. and Canada in January. It has made $64.2 million domestically to date.
Ferrell fans will also probably turn out to see the film. The actor hasn't been on the big screen since December 2013, when "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" debuted to $26.2 million. It went on to pull in roughly $127.4 million in the U.S. and Canada.
But at its premiere at the South by Southwest festival, "Get Hard" elicited mixed reactions from attendees. Though the audience laughed throughout the screening, things took an awkward turn when one audience member called the film "racist" during the Q&A.
"When you do satire, that's a big problem," Cohen said when asked whether he was worried the film "would be reinforcing racial stereotypes. "Because it's sometimes hard to distinguish between satire and what you're satirizing. So that's a dangerous thing."
The R-rated comedy is expected to draw in mostly male audiences.
"Home," however, will appeal to families, who have been turning out in full force in March for films such as "Insurgent" and "Cinderella." An estimated 15% of K-12 schools will be out for spring break this weekend, according to Rentrak.
The film, which cost a whopping $130 million to make, follows a teenage girl, Tip, who meets and befriends an alien fugitive, Boov. The two set off on a quest to find Tip's mother. It features a star-studded voice cast: Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Jennifer Lopez and Steve Martin.
DreamWorks Animation, which has churned out hits such as the "Shrek," Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar" movies, needs a solid launch for it latest animated feature.
The Jeffrey Katzenberg-run studio has struggled in the last year with a recent round of layoffs and box office duds.
In 2014, the studio took a $57-million write-down for its animated feature "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" and a $13.5-million charge on its summer movie "Turbo." The studio also recorded an $87-million write-down for "Rise of the Guardians" in 2012.
So far, "Home" has fared well overseas, pulling in $20.1 million in just 10 markets where it has already launched.
Last weekend's No. 1 film, "Insurgent," will probably drop about 50%, adding $23 million to its box office haul. Disney's live-action "Cinderella" is also expected to remain in the top five, adding about $20 million.
Also in theaters, Weinstein Co.'s Radius-TWC label will expand the indie horror film "It Follows" to about 1,200 theaters. The movie has generated favorable reviews from critics and audiences, garnering a 94% "positive" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earning a solid $565,537 in limited release.