‘The Proposal’ gets big ‘yes’

“The Hangover,” an R-rated comedy about a lost weekend of intense male bonding in Las Vegas, might have ruled the box office so far this month, but it seems that moviegoers were ready for the softer side of funny.

“The Proposal,” starring Sandra Bullock as a high-powered publishing executive who, to get her green card, pretends to be engaged to her long-suffering assistant, played by Ryan Reynolds, opened No. 1 at the box office with $34.1 million in ticket sales, beating even the most optimistic projections.

Comedies drove the box office this weekend, with “The Proposal,” “The Hangover” and even the prehistoric-themed “Year One” performing well enough to end a three-week mini-slump at the ticket window.

Two exceptions -- Will Ferrell’s “Land of the Lost” and Eddie Murphy’s “Imagine That” -- continue to be huge disappointments.

The total box office gross for the weekend was $147 million, a 2.85% improvement on the same weekend a year ago. Hollywood needed the boost as the last few weekends fell below the average box office of June 2008, leading some analysts to wonder if the summer tallies, which were strong in May, had a case of June gloom.


The clouds lifted a little this weekend, and with Paramount Pictures’ “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” opening Wednesday and Warner Bros.’ latest installment in the “Harry Potter” franchise coming in the next few weeks, late June and July should be solid.

“Transformers” already is off to strong start overseas, where it took in $20 million in Britain and Japan.

After a summer of action and raunch, clearly there was room for a film aimed at women, and the performance of Disney’s “The Proposal” should again dispel the myth that movies with strong female appeal can’t perform as well as those targeting men.

Women made up about 63% of the audience for “The Proposal.”

For Bullock, “The Proposal” is her biggest opening as a top liner, almost doubling the 2007 thriller “Premonition.” Reynolds’ star also will probably be on the rise based on the success of the film.

Industry projections had “The Proposal” opening in the mid-$20-million range. Even Disney was caught off guard by the strength of “The Proposal.”

“We never expected to double the best Sandra Bullock movie ever. . . . The word of mouth took over,” said Chuck Viane, president of domestic distribution for Walt Disney Studios.

Although the movie mostly appealed to women, Viane expects that to shift in the weeks ahead. “More and more guys are hearing how funny it is and going along for the ride.”

Coming in second to “The Proposal” was Warner Bros.’ “The Hangover,” which took in nearly $27 million and already has crossed the $150-million mark in domestic box office. The surprise of the summer, it should easily pull in more than $200 million in the U.S.

Sony Pictures’ caveman comedy “Year One” opened at $20.2 million, which was enough for fourth place and was in line with industry projections.

The movie, which stars Jack Black and Michael Cera, had mixed reviews but still appealed to its intended audience of boys and young men.

Slightly more than half of the audience for “Year One” was over 21.

“We thought it would play much younger than it did,” said Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution for Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Disney/Pixar’s “Up” showed few signs of slowing down, raking in $21.3 million. With $224.1 million at the domestic box office, it already has surpassed last year’s “Wall-E.”

Woody Allen’s latest, “Whatever Works,” starring Larry David of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” took in $280,720 in nine theaters in New York and Los Angeles, making it one of the stronger limited release openers of the year for Sony Pictures Classics.





Estimated sales in the U.S. and Canada:

*--* -- Movie 3-day gross Percentage Total Days in change from -- (studio) (millions) Last weekend (millions) release 1 The Proposal $34.1 NA $34.1 3 -- (Disney) 2 The Hangover $26.9 -18% $152.9 17 -- (Warner Bros./Legendary) 3 Up $21.3 -31% $224.1 24 -- (Disney/Pixar) 4 Year One $20.2 n/a $20.2 3 -- (Sony/Columbia Pictures) 5 The Taking of $11.3 -52% $43.3 10 Pelham 123 -- (Sony/Relativity) 6 Night at the $7.3 -24% $156 31 Museum: Battle -- of the Smithsonian -- (Fox) 7 Star Trek $4.7 -14% $239.4 45 -- (Paramount/Spygla ss) 8 Land of the Lost $4.0 -56% $43.7 10 -- (Universal) 9 Imagine That $3.1 -44% $11.3 10 -- (Paramount) 10 Terminator $3.1 -36% $119.5 32 Salvation -- (Warner Bros./Halcyon) *--*

Industry totals

*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2008 (in billions) from 2008 $147 +2.85% $4.8 +10.4% *--*

Sources: Times research and Box Office