Box Office Report: Sacha Baron Cohen's 'Dictator' Scores $4.5 Million on Wednesday

1:06 AM PST 05/17/2012 by Pamela McClintock
Paramount Pictures

The R-rated comedy is on track for a five-day debut of $23 million to $25 million.

CANNES -- Sacha Baron Cohen's new R-rated comedy opened to $4.5 million on Wednesday in North America, putting the Paramount pic on track for a $23 million to $25 million five-day debut unless business drops off precipitously.

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However, Baron Cohen's first narrative feature wasn't able to topple box office monster The Avengers, which grossed north of $6 million for the day. The Disney and Marvel Studios' tentpole is now the No. 9 title of all time, with a worldwide gross north of $1.04 billion.

The Dictator's opening-day domestic gross included an impressive $600,000 in Tuesday midnight runs.

Dictator -- which received a C CinemaScore -- is rolling out in 30 foreign markets this weekend, and got off to a strong start in Australia, although numbers weren't immediately available.

Plugging the movie in Cannes on Wednesday, Baron Cohen did several stunts on the Croisette in character as Admiral General Aladeen, including mounting a camel in front of the famed Carlton Hotel.

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The Dictator, Baron Cohen's first narrative feature, stands to do bigger business overseas; his Borat and Bruno both grossed more internationally than domestically.

In the U.S., tracking for The Dictator has been soft among moviegoers older than 30, who might be skittish about what boundaries Baron Cohen will cross in the film. Paramount believes positive reviews could help persuade them to give it a go.

The Dictator reunites Baron Cohen with Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles. Borat was a worldwide phenomenon, grossing $133.1 million internationally and $128.5 million in North America after opening to $26.5 million in November 2006.

Bruno was considered a disappointment in comparison, opening to $30.6 million domestically in July 2009 but topping out at $60.1 million. The film earned $78.8 million overseas.

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The Dictator cost $65 million to produce and was shot on a bigger scale than Borat and Bruno because of the storyline, which centers on a Middle Eastern dictator who goes to New York and is essentially defrocked. Part of the movie was shot on location in the Middle East before the production moved to Manhattan.

Paramount originally intended to open the R-rated comedy May 11 opposite Dark Shadows but pushed back the release until May 16 because of Avengers and Dark Shadows, which ended up having a heavy comedic tone.

As with The Dictator, Universal's Battleship, which opens Friday domestically, will be impacted by the continuing strength of Disney and Marvel Studios' Avengers. One advantage The Dictator could have is that R-rated comedies, when they work, have better multiples than other genres.

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