Movie projector: ‘Couples Retreat’ could bring Universal much needed good news


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After a brutal summer at the box office that contributed to the ouster Monday of co-chairmen David Linde and Marc Shmuger, Universal has a clear run at the box office and a potential hit on its hands.

The romantic comedy ‘Couples Retreat,’ the only film opening in wide release tomorrow, is tracking to sell between $25 million and $30 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have seen pre-release audience polling. That would be a solid, if not spectacular, start given the film’s cost. A person involved in ‘Couples Retreat’ said it cost at least $70 million to produce, though Universal said the production budget was about $60 million.


Since April’s ‘Fast and Furious,’ the studio has seen eight consecutive movies it distributed and marketed domestically -- including ‘Land of the Lost,’ ‘Funny People’ and ‘Love Happens’ -- perform poorly at the box office. On the plus side, Universal also owns 50% of the successful Weinstein Co. release ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ which it handled overseas.

Universal owns 75% of ‘Couples Retreat,’ which co-stars and was co-written by Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. Relativity Media covered the other 25% of the movie’s budget.

The weekend’s other big story will be ‘Paranormal Activity.’ After two very successful weeks screening only in midnight shows at 33 locations, the ultra-low-budget horror flick will expand to 159 tomorrow and play at all hours of the day. The film is on track to gross more than $2 million, a strong number for a such a limited release. If it performs that well or better, Paramount will likely continue to expand it around the country.

‘Paranormal Activity’ has been marketed primarily through an online viral campaign, although Paramount has started to buy radio and cable television ads recently.

-- Ben Fritz