'Funny People' looks to top boxoffice

R-rated comedy takes on family fare this weekend

The boxoffice weekend is shaping up as a tale of two genres.

A trio of studios will be singing "We Are Family" again this weekend at domestic multiplexes. But the No. 1 pic is likely to be "Funny People," an R-rated comedy in a continuation of another recent theatrical trend.

The family-friendly films "G-Force," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" nabbed three of the top five spots in the most recent boxoffice rankings, so one might think that the moms-and-kids segment is saturated. But so far this summer, parents have shown boundless enthusiasm for rounding up the tots for a couple hours of air-conditioned diversion.

Fox's family-targeting adventure fantasy "Aliens in the Attic," which opens Friday, mixes CGI extraterrestrials into predominantly live-action shenanigans. Originally scheduled for a spring bow, "Aliens" -- then titled "They Came from Upstairs" -- was delayed after the studio decided to tweak its screenplay and visual effects.

John Schultz ("The Honeymooners") directed the PG-rated pic's young ensemble cast.

"It's summertime, and I think there's plenty of interest for a picture like this," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said.

Prerelease tracking looks like "Aliens" might do best with boys, opening with $11 million-$13 million through Sunday. That's just below the expected range for the second weekend of Disney's family adventure fantasy "G-Force," which ruled the boxoffice last session, and Warner Bros.' "Half-Blood Prince," whose third frame will be bolstered by an expansion to 160 Imax venues.

But this weekend's boxoffice crown is likely to be worn by a comedy bearing a restricted rating -- like the other two pics in last weekend's top five.

Universal's "Funny People" -- a Judd Apatow-directed dramatic comedy starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Leslie Mann -- appears a lock to open north of $20 million, but how much higher is the subject of much speculation. Tracking-based forecasts have been unusually errant this summer, and "Funny" is considered a pic whose fate is tied to word-of-mouth from its earliest audiences.

So a positive reaction among Friday patrons -- spread via Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc. -- could prove particularly key toward the pic's sustaining momentum Saturday and Sunday.

With a running time pushing 2 1/2 hours and a story involving a stand-up comic with cancer (Sandler), "People" isn't the most obvious sort of Apatow laugher. But it has been drawing relatively positive early reviews, and broadly solid prerelease interest appears strongest among younger males.

Produced for an estimated $70 million, "People" is the third Apatow-helmed pic after "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up." "Virgin" opened in August 2005 with $21.4 million, en route to ringing up $109.4 million domestically; "Knocked Up" bowed with $30.7 million and registered $148.8 million in total domestic coin.

The weekend's third wide opener is an R-rated horror pic with relatively modest aims. Freestyle-distributed "The Collector," from Liddell Entertainment and starring Josh Stewart ("The Haunting of Molly Hartley") appears headed for a bow in the single-digit millions from 1,325 playdates.

"We are cautiously optimistic," Freestyle co-topper Mark Borde said.

Borde said "Collector" targets younger males, unlike last weekend's horror release "The Orphan," which skewed heavily female in fetching $12.9 million from its first frame.
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