Two new star-driven Hollywood comedies face off at the box office this weekend in an attempt to unseat Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix from the top spot. Adam Sandler headlines the gay marriage pic I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry while John Travolta goes one step further starring as a heavy-set mom in the musical Hairspray. For the first time in nearly a month, no new release gets an early midweek headstart.

Adam Sandler is back for his annual trip to blockbusterland in Chuck and Larry starring with Kevin James and Jessica Biel. The PG-13 film reunites Sandler with director Dennis Dugan (Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore)
and tells the story of two heterosexual firefighters who pretend to be married to each other to take advantage of the financial benefits. The former Saturday Night Live star only does one film per year and each comedy has a specific well-defined plot. That has led to a string of hits at the box office as fans so far have not had too much of him. Earlier this year, Eddie Murphy reached $34.2M with Norbit‘s opening while Will Ferrell bowed to $33M with Blades of Glory. Chuck should go a little higher.

The former wedding singer has scored $100M blockbusters in each of the last five years and aims to extend the streak to six with his latest summer offering. Last June, his comedy Click bowed to $40M on its way to $137.3M while 2005’s The Longest Yard debuted to $47.6M over three days before heading to a $158.1M final. Sandler is one of the most reliable box office draws in the business and his usual fan following, skewing a bit more male, should be back again this time. Reviews have been bad as usual but should not factor in much. Potter and Transformers will still provide some competition for young males and females may be swayed more to Hairspray. Universal’s marketing push has been on par with past films from the actor and Sandler has been hitting up all the standard talk shows for his yearly sales pitches. Tying the knot in 3,492 theaters, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry could open to about $37M.


The happy couple

John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken,
Amanda Bynes, and newcomer Nicole Blonsky join forces for the lavish musical Hairspray, the 2007 movie version of the popular Broadway version of the 1988 cult film from John Waters. The new PG-rated pic has earned glowing praise from critics which will certainly help its cause in a summer full of action hits aimed at young males. Hairspray will skew more female and could appeal to multiple generations given the broad range of stars from teen queens to middle-aged sex symbols.

New Line does not have an easy sell here. However the studio was wise to program the release into the second half of summer knowing that audiences may be all actioned out by now and looking for something different. Musicals rarely hit the big screen during the summer although in 2001 Moulin Rouge opened wide to $13.7M and a $6,019 average leading to a respectable $57.4M gross. Hairspray hopes to become a hit like Chicago and Dreamgirls, rather than a dud like Rent or The Producers. Broadway musicals don’t always translate well onto the big screen but starpower often helps to make them click with moviegoers. Hairspray boasts a solid line-up of Hollywood stars and with strong reviews should
attract a good following at the box office. Dancing into more than 3,000 theaters, the Adam Shankman-directed film could collect about $19M this weekend.


Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray

A space team is sent on a mission to repair the dying sun in Fox Searchlight’s futuristic thriller Sunshine which launches in limited release in ten theaters on Friday. Michelle Yeoh, Chris Evans, and Cillian Murphy star in this latest film from director Danny Boyle which expands to more cities in the weeks ahead.


Something resembling sunshine in Sunshine

Warner Bros. will take on the two new comedies and try for a second weekend on top with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Had the film opened on a Friday and concentrated its whole audience into three days, the dropoff would easily have been more than 60%. However, the Wednesday launch last week softened the Friday-to-Sunday tally so a smaller decline should result. The biggest foe will actually be Potter himself as the seventh and final book in the wildly popular series will go on sale early Saturday prompting millions of fans to invest their time into reading rather than munching on popcorn in front of a big screen. A 55% drop would give Phoenix around $35M for the frame and a mammoth 12-day cume of $210M.

Transformers should also have a decent hold since no new action entries are hitting the multiplexes. The Paramount/DreamWorks release might fall by 45% to roughly $20M boosting the total to a towering $262M. Disney and Pixar also look to see a good hold for Ratatouille. The animated rodent comedy may slide by 35% to $12M for a sum of $165M to date.

LAST YEAR: For the third straight weekend, Johnny Depp‘s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest led the field and grossed $35.2M boosting the 17-day total to a staggering $321.9M. Sony’s animated film Monster House debuted in second place with $22.2M and was followed by fellow freshman Lady in the Water from Warner Bros. which disappointed with a $18M launch. Final domestic tallies reached $73.5M and $42.3M, respectively. Rounding out the top five were the comedies You, Me and Dupree with $12.8M and Little Man with $11M. Another pair of comedies debuted outside the top five. MGM’s Clerks II bowed to $10.1M on its way to $24.1M, while Fox’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend opened to only $8.6M leading to a $22.5M final.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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