Movie projector: ‘Get Him to the Greek’ and ‘Killers’ aiming for No. 2 against ‘Shrek’

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Last year on the first weekend of June, ‘The Hangover’ shocked Hollywood with a $41-million opening, one of the biggest ever for an R-rated comedy.

This year the R-rated ‘Get Him to the Greek’ and PG-13 ‘Killers’ are both hoping for some of the same mojo, with the former expected to attract more men and the latter more women.


Though neither has a good shot at a similar opening, both are on track for decent openings of between $15 million and $20 million. They will most likely open behind ‘Shrek Forever After’ on its third weekend, said people who have seen pre-release surveys of potential moviegoers.

Family film ‘Marmaduke’ and the low-cost horror picture ‘Splice,’ meanwhile, are generating very little pre-release interest and will most likely each struggle to open to more than $10 million.

With the last three major releases, ‘Shrek Forever After,’ ‘Sex and the City 2' and ‘Prince of Persia,’ all posting soft openings, some in Hollywood are worried that the negative trend at the box office in May will continue through the summer.

‘Killers,’ an action-comedy starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher, is the most expensive movie ever released by Lionsgate, which typically focuses on lower budget genre pictures. It cost $75 million to produce, though the studio received a tax credit and sold off distribution rights in most foreign countries, bringing its remaining financial exposure (before marketing costs) to about $40 million.

In a conference call with Wall Street analysts this week, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group President Joe Drake said that if ‘Killers’ opens to more than $20 million it will be profitable, but will probably lose money if it opens in the low teens.

Lionsgate has declined to show ‘Killers’ to reviewers before its release, making it difficult to gauge whether the film will have much momentum past its opening based on audience buzz.

Universal Pictures has high hopes for word of mouth on ‘Get Him to the Greek,’ which has garnered mostly positive reviews. It stars Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, who have become regular performers in comedies produced by Judd Apatow, along with rapper and media mogul Sean Combs. ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall,’ the last movie from ‘Greek’ director Nicholas Stoller, opened to $17 million and ended up with a very healthy $63 million.

‘Greek,’ which has received mostly positive reviews, cost Universal and its financing partners Relativity Media and Spyglass Entertainment about $40 million to make.

Distributor 20th Century Fox is opening ‘Marmaduke,’ a computer-generated effects / live-action hybrid based on the long-running comic strip, in the same month that the studio’s 2004 hit ‘Garfield’ bowed to $22 million. Based on tracking, it appears more likely that ‘Marmaduke,’ which features the voices of Owen Wilson and George Lopez, will resemble the 2006 sequel ‘Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties,’ which had an anemic $7.3 million debut.

The picture cost Fox and partner New Regency Pictures about $50 million to make.

‘Splice’ was acquired this year at the Sundance Film Festival by producer Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Pictures, which has had a very poor run at the box office, including the April flop ‘The Losers.’ Unlike last year’s surprise hit ‘Paranormal Activity,’ another independently made horror film, which was rolled out in theaters slowly and built strong online buzz, ‘Splice’ is being released nationwide by Warner Bros. and is likely to open to only around $5 million.

If ‘Shrek Forever After’ has a relatively small drop of about 40% like it did on its second weekend, it should gross between $25 million and $30 million this weekend, putting it comfortably at the top of the box office chart unless one of the new films significantly exceeds expectations.

Last weekend’s new openers ‘Sex and the City 2' and ‘Prince of Persia’ will likely be competing for second place alongside ‘Killers’ and ‘Get Him to the Greek’ with ticket sales of less than $20 million. Walt Disney Studios, however, would like for ‘Persia’ to do better, given that the video-game adaptation cost around $200 million to produce.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Jonah Hill, Sean Combs and Russell Brand in ‘Get Him to the Greek.’ Credit: Glen Wilson / Universal Pictures.