Two of a kind means funny money

Comedies 'Get Smart,' 'Love Guru' out to prove that laughing matters at theaters

Oh, we've got comedy. The weekend boxoffice features two major comedy releases, and their competing bows could make the frame no laughing matter for at least one of them. But with Warner Bros.' "Get Smart" and Paramount's "The Love Guru" likely to combine for upward of $50 million in domestic grosses, the comedy clash could mean another solid session for the summer boxoffice.

Industrywise, the boxoffice season is tracking 2% ahead of the same portion of summer 2007. That's the happy result of three consecutive weekends of year-over-year upticks that has turned Hollywood's boxoffice frown upside down.

"Get Smart" — the big-screen adaptation of the classic TV show that stars Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway — looks likely to ring up $30 million-$35 million and top the weekend rankings. "Smart" is about an $80 million co-production with Village Roadshow.

"All of our screenings played extremely well, and our tracking is solid," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said. "We expect to open well and extend the run into the summer holiday playtime."

"Love Guru" is a Mike Myers spoof that's drawn fire — some might say free publicity — from activist groups claiming that its mocking of a phony-baloney Indian spiritual leader treads heavily on Hindi religious sensitivies.

Paramount also has been the target of industry snickering about its decision to unspool the comedy during the same weekend as the clearly stronger "Smart."

But though Warners is operating from a position of strength, even its willingness to stick with its first-choice date has many suggesting that the situation is less than ideal for either studio.

"The thought was always, 'When is one of these two pictures going to move?' " a rival distribution boss said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that they're going to hurt each other and that one of them is going to do better than the other."

Paramount executives said their film's lower cost than the Warners release — at about $60 million for "Guru"— and a crowded summer schedule make such concerns much ado about something that little could be done about.

Spyglass co-financed "Love Guru," which like "Smart" is rated PG-13. Figure "Love Guru" to conjure about $20 million this weekend and finish third after a second-week haul of $25 million or so for Universal's "The Incredible Hulk."

Meanwhile, the male stars of the competing comedies also will be measured against their past opening performances.

Carell's career-best opening in a lead role was a $31.2 million performance with June 2007's "Evan Almighty." Myers hasn't appeared onscreen in six years. His biggest live-action bow remains "Austin Powers in Goldmember," which debuted with $73.1 million in July 2002. (partialdiff)
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