Box Office Preview: Judd Apatow's 'Bridesmaids' Battles 'Thor,' 'Fast Five'

Suzanne Hanover/Universal Studios

The Kristen Wiig comedy is expected to come in second or third for the weekend; Paul Bettany's "Priest 3D" also opens wide.

CANNES — Regardless of how Paul Feig’s R-rated Bridesmaids opens this weekend, Hollywood is tipping its hat to Universal and producer Judd Apatow for taking a chance and making a female-branded raunchy comedy.

Bridesmaids — conjuring up plenty of comparisons to The Hangover — stars Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy and Wendi McLendon-Covey (Jon Hamm also makes an appearance). Comparisons are difficult, and while Sex and the City also was a female-driven, R-rated comedy, it was based on a blockbuster television franchise.

“Whenever someone does something different, it’s good for the business,” a rival studio exec said.

Universal is suggesting that Bridesmaids will gross in the low teens, although many box office observers believe it will clear $15 million and even do as much as $17 million (Universal comedy Baby Mama, rated PG-13 and released in April 2008, opened to $17.5 million).

Either way, Bridesmaids will only come in No. 2 or No. 3 for the weekend, behind Paramount and Marvel Studios’ Thor — which is all but guaranteed to stay at No. 1 in its second outing — and possibly Universal’s Fast Five.

In its second frame, Thor, with a cume of $75.6 million through Tuesday, is sure to jump the $100 million mark domestically this weekend. Overseas, the superhero film has already cleared $200 million.

Financially, Universal is in good shape with Bridesmaids, since the comedy’s net budget was $32.5 million (Relativity Media co-financed the comedy with Universal).

Hoping to turn Bridesmaids into a rare event comedy for women, Universal has heavily promoted the Apatow brand in marketing Feig’s film, along with touting Feig, the arrival of Wiig as a major comedic voice and the entire ensemble cast.

Universal has aggressively screened the film, hosting more than 350 showings in the weeks leading to the film’s debut Friday.

The other new entry at the domestic box office this weekend is Sony/Screen Gems’ Paul Bettany starrer Priest 3D, the $60 million adaptation of the popular Korean graphic novel series by Min-Woo Hyung.

Priest is projected to open to $10 million to $12 million, with Sony already looking at the international box office to drive the supernatural actioner. Last weekend, Priest saw good numbers in Russia and Spain.

Directed by Scott Stewart, Priest was produced by Michael De Luca, Joshua Donen and Mitchell Peck.

A slew of specialty films debut Friday in limited runs, including Will Ferrell drama Everything Must Go from Roadside Attractions and The First Grader, from National Geographic Entertainment. Wrekin Hill also launches Hesher.