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Opening day: ‘Bruno’ heading toward fabulous $40-million opening

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‘Bruno’ is on track to exceed already sizable expectations for its opening weekend.

Universal’s Sacha Baron Cohen comedy sold a studio-estimated $14.2 million worth of tickets Friday, making it likely that the film will gross close to, and possibly even exceed, $40 million by Sunday.

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Given that the studio paid financier Media Rights Capital $42.5 million for rights to distribute the film, and that it will likely earn about the same amount overseas, that’s a very strong start. In fact, it could be one of the biggest debuts ever for an R-rated comedy, behind only ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘American Pie 2,’ ‘Scary Movie’ and June’s ‘The Hangover.’

It was tough to tell from Friday grosses how several films already in the marketplace will hold on for the weekend. Comparisons are difficult because last Friday was an extraordinarily strong day at the box office with most people off of work, but Saturday was extraordinarily slow because it was July 4.

Ticket sales for ‘Public Enemies’ dropped 57% Friday to $4.4 million, a big decline for a drama that needs to last a long time to succeed given its $100-million-plus budget and $40.1 million start in its first five days. But if today’s decline is very modest, which is likely given how slow last Saturday was, it could end up dropping less than 50%. As of Friday, it has grossed $56.8 million.

The same goes for Fox’s ‘Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.’ It declined 51% on Friday to $8.35 million. Given how strong Saturdays usually are for family films, its ultimate drop could be less than 40%. The animated feature has grossed a total of $100.4 million.

One thing that was very evident on Friday, however, is that Fox’s ‘I Love You, Beth Cooper’ is barely registering at the box office, even among its core audience of teenage girls. The low-budget, romantic comedy sold $2.1 million worth of tickets on its first day, putting it on track to gross around $5 million for the weekend.

-- Ben Fritz

Update (Sunday 9:20 AM): ‘Bruno’ earned a studio-estimated $30.4 million for the weekend. Details are here.

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