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The decision by Warner Bros. to open R-rated comedy The Campaign — a raunchy satire of the lengths political candidates are willing to go — in the midst of the real-life presidential contest appears to be paying off.
The Campaign, featuring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rivals vying to represent their North Carolina district in Congress, debuted to a solid $27.4 million, slightly more than Warners was anticipating.
Generally speaking, R-rated comedies fall off on Saturday since younger moviegoers, the target audience for such fare, are more prone to turn out on Friday.
The Campaign, directed by Jay Roach, was unique in several respects.
While it dropped 7 percent on average across the nation, it overperformed in two markets on Saturday as Republican contender Mitt Romney tapped Paul Ryan to be his vice presidential running mate — Boston, Romney’s hometown, and Washington, D.C. ground zero for politics. The film was up 2 percent in Boston, and flat in the nation’s capital.
“We saw a real kick in those markets,” Warners president of domestic distribution Dan Fellman said. “And as the real campaign continues to play out, we are in a very interesting place.”
The Campaign also did well in the South (where it’s set) and the Midwest.
Another sign that The Campaign is appealing to voters is the audience makeup. Nearly 65 percent of the film’s opening weekend audience was over the age of 25, unusual for an R-rated comedy.
“Let’s hope our real candidates don’t campaign in the same vein as these two guys,” quipped another studio executive.
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