'Baby Mama' legit at the boxoffice

10:18 AM PST 04/27/2008 by Carl DiOrio, AP

'Harold and Kumar,' 'Forbidden Kingdom' round out the top three

"Baby Mama" delivered a No. 1 opening for Universal this weekend, bouncing into the domestic boxoffice with an estimated $18.3 million.

That bested the $14.6 million bow by New Line/Warner Bros.' runner-up "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay." Fox's Ewan McGregor starrer "Deception" debuted in 10th place with just $2.2 million.

The previous frame's No. 1 film, "The Forbidden Kingdom" -- from Lionsgate, the Weinstein Co., Casey Silver Prods. and Relativity Media -- slipped 48% to ring up $11.2 million in third place with a $38.3 million cume. Universal's R-rated comedy "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was still on the minds of enough moviegoers to register $11 million in fourth place, as a modest weekend-over-weekend drop of 38% shaped a 10-day cume of $35.1 million.

Sony's Al Pacino starrer "88 Minutes" fell 48% in its second session to $3.6 million in eighth place with a $12.6 million cume. Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain's documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" tumbled from the top 10 on a 54% decline in sophomore grosses to $1.4 million, with a $5.3 million cume.

Industrywide, the final weekend of the spring boxoffice notched a second consecutive three-day uptick, as $91 million in collective grosses marked a 17% improvement over the same frame last year, according to Nielsen EDI.

Yet overall, seasonal tallies have declined 18% from spring 2007, at $830 million. And 2008's $2.55 billion in year-to-date grosses represents a 2% dip from tallies over the same portion of last year.

In a limited bow this weekend, MGM's Burt Reynolds starrer "Deal" grossed $31,000 from 51 playdates. That was just $620 per engagement, boding a quick detour to DVD.

Newstyle Releasing's family adventure film "A Plumm Summer" debuted in 58 theaters in four markets and rung up $60,668, or a thin $1,046 per venue.

ThinkFilm's Helen Hunt-helmed drama "Then She Found Me" debuted with $74,395 from nine theaters in New York and Los Angeles. That represented a promising $8,266 per venue ahead of its adding several markets over the next two frames.

Sony Pictures Classics' Errol Morris-directed Abu Ghraib documentary "Standard Operating Procedure" registered $14,916 from two venues, or $7,458 per location.

The Samuel Goldwyn/IDP thriller "Roman de Gare" bowed with $25,545 from a pair of New York sites for an auspicious $12,772 per location. "Roman" is scheduled to expand into five new markets on Friday and Los Angeles in two weeks.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Overture's drama "The Visitor" added 58 theaters for a total of 76 and grossed $508,000, or a solid $6,683 per venue, with a cume of $856,579. "Visitor" will drop in on 50 additional sites next weekend.

Fox Searchlight's singing seniors docu "Young@Heart" added 23 playdates for a total of 56 and grossed $225,000, a sturdy $4,018 per engagement, with a cume of $530,487. "Young" belts it out in a total 109 venues in 37 cities starting Friday.



Meanwhile, Universal execs were elated that their gutsy gambit with "Baby" was validated by the comedy's strong opening, as well as solid grosses for the second weekend of "Sarah."

"Baby" was rated PG-13, so Universal figured is was safe to open the Tina Fey starrer just a week after it uspooled "Sarah."

"We've just dispelled one of the oldest misconceptions in Hollywood -- that you can't open comedies back-to-back without them cannibalizing each other," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "This was a great opening for 'Baby Mama,' and 'Sarah Marshall's' hold of 38% is phenomenal."

Directed by former "Saturday Night Live" writer Michael McCullers, "Baby" also stars "SNL" trouper Amy Poehler and was produced McCullers and "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels. "Baby" played to audiences skewing 68% female, with 55% of audiences 25 and older.

The "Harold and Kumar" sequel represented the first New Line title handled by Warner Bros. since the major took over distribution of its corporate sibling's features. The franchise progenitor opened to a mere $5.5 million back in July 2004 but did outsized business on DVD, which fueled the sequel's bigger opening.

Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said the sequel was originally produced as a straight-to-video title until a decision was made to market it theatrically. With production costs totaling an estimated $12 million, it appears the big-screen bet has paid off.

"We're very happy, (and) the transition from New Line to Warner is working smoothly," Fellman said.

"Deception" never got any traction in its pre-release tracking, but its opening was softer than had been feared. Plot points including some sex-club intrigue drew an R rating, but data on opening-audience demographics weren't immediately available.

"We hoped for more, and we were disappointed," Fox senior vp distribution Bert Livingston said. "It's a well-crafted film, and people seemed to like it, so maybe people will tell their friends to come out and see it."

Next weekend marks the start of the summer boxoffice season and boasts the highly anticipated "Iron Man" comic book adaptation from Paramount. The only wide-release rival to that Robert Downey Jr. starrer will be the female-skewing romantic comedy "Made of Honor," in a counterprogramming gambit by Sony.
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