Audiences hold applause

“Funny People” needs a jolt of box-office testosterone.

The somber comedy starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen opened to a mediocre $23.4 million this weekend, according to studio estimates. That’s just enough to avoid being a box-office bust if it experiences modest declines over the next few weeks.

It contributed to an overall soft weekend at the box office. Ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada since the summer movie season began May 1 fell below 2008’s total for the first time, according to data from

The box office is expected to start recovering next weekend, however, with Paramount Pictures’ “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” which may exceed $50 million in its first week, according to pre-release audience polling.


If “Funny People” is going to recover, however, it will rely largely on men. Audience reaction was starkly split along gender lines. Female moviegoers, perhaps put off by the number of jokes centered on male anatomy, gave the movie a C-plus, while men rated it a B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.

The opening weekend audience was almost evenly split between men and women, meaning male attendance will have to grow substantially to make up for what will presumably be a drop-off among women based on poor word of mouth. That will be challenging, however, since “G.I. Joe” is tracking very strongly with males in pre-release polling.

“People tended to have a very strong reaction either positive or negative to this movie,” commented Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal Pictures. She added, “I think there is room in the marketplace for this to keep playing.”

Though Universal is handling worldwide distribution for “Funny People,” it doesn’t have the most on the line if the movie indeed ends up losing money. Relativity Media financed 50% of the $75-million production budget, while Universal and Sony Pictures each covered 25%, according to two people familiar with the picture’s finances.

Nonetheless, Universal could have used a bigger opening for “Funny People” as it comes at the end of a tough streak following the April hit “Fast & Furious.” Since then, the studio’s “State of Play” and “Land of the Lost” have flopped, while “Public Enemies” and “Bruno” have been so-so box-office performers.

“Aliens in the Attic,” the weekend’s other new movie, flopped as expected. The $45-million family comedy, co-financed by Fox and New Regency, took in only $7.8 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Fox Searchlight’s "(500) Days of Summer” continued its strong run in limited release. The indie romantic comedy more than tripled its theater count to 266 and grossed a healthy $2.75 million, bringing its total to $6.8 million. This Friday it will expand to about 800 theaters.

Disney’s family action flick “G-Force” had a decent second-weekend drop of 46%, putting it in third place with $17.1 million. The movie was expensive to produce at $150 million, however, and the studio had been hoping for a smaller decline. After solid weekday ticket sales, “G-Force” has now grossed a total of $66.5 million and probably will ultimately earn about $100 million domestically. As Walt Disney Co. Chief Financial Officer Thomas Staggs conceded last week, the film will quite possibly end up a money loser.

Sony’s “The Ugly Truth” declined 53% on its second weekend to $13 million, a signal that it won’t have a long and prosperous box-office run like other recent romantic comedies, including “The Proposal.”

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” got a boost from expanding into 162 Imax theaters that were previously playing “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” on Wednesday and declined only 40% on its third weekend to $17.7 million. After initially falling behind its predecessor, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” when accounting for ticket price inflation, the sixth release in Warner Bros.’ eight-movie series is starting to gain back some of that ground.

International ticket sales for “Potter” continue to be spectacular. It earned $42.7 million this weekend, bringing its overseas total to $492.3 million and its worldwide gross to $747.8 million.





Estimated sales in the U.S. and Canada:

*--* -- Movie 3-day gross Percentage Total Days in change from -- (studio) (millions) Last (millions) release weekend 1 Funny People $23.4 NA $23.4 3 -- (Universal/Sony/Re lativity) 2 Harry Potter and $17.7 -40% $255.5 19 the -- Half-Blood Prince -- (Warner Bros.) 3 G-Force $17.1 -46% $66.5 10 -- (Disney) 4 The Ugly Truth $13.0 -53% $54.5 10 -- (Sony) 5 Aliens in the Attic $7.8 NA $7.8 3 -- (Fox/New Regency) 6 Orphan $7.3 -44% $26.8 10 -- (Warner Bros./Dark Castle) 7 Ice Age: Dawn of $5.3 -37% $181.8 33 the Dinosaurs -- (Fox) 8 The Hangover $5.1 -21% $255.8 59 -- (Warner Bros./Legendary) 9 The Proposal $4.8 -24% $148.9 45 -- (Disney) 10 Transformers: $4.6 -43% $388.1 40 Revenge -- of the Fallen -- (Paramount) *--*

Industry totals

*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $122.0 -20.1% $6.43 +7.0% *--*

Sources: Times research and Box Office