'Iron Man' not alone at the boxoffice

'Made of Honor' sees counter-programming opportunity

Tagging along behind "Iron Man" in the Robert Downey Jr. starrer's march to the boxoffice altar this weekend will be Sony's little counter-programming flower girl, "Made of Honor."

A romantic comedy starring Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan, "Honor" is the latest studio attempt to attract female moviegoers while a more male-skewing event film dominates the marketplace.

There was a time when a hot new release might sell out during its first weekend, sending would-be patrons scurrying for alternatives. That's rare these days, when 4,000-theater runs offer anybody interested the chance to see a big release.

Yet there will be those who just aren't interested, so counter-programming ploys aim to please those unhappy with the tentpole fare. Most often, that means female-targeted romantic comedies going head-to-head with megareleases, though executives hope they can attract a date crowd in addition to women flying solo.

"Women of every age will want to see 'Made of Honor,' but guys will have a good time as well," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

In June 2005, Universal's romantic comedy "The Perfect Man" rung up $5.3 million the same weekend that Warner Bros. bowed "Batman Begins" to $48.7 million. The following June, Warners' "Superman Returns" opened with $52.6 million, while Fox's "The Devil Wears Prada" debuted to $27.5 million.

In May, Warners' romantic comedy "License to Wed" registered $10.4 million, while DreamWorks/Paramount's testosterone-laced "Transformers" tucked away $70.5 million. And on May 9, Warners will unspool its family-oriented action film "Speed Racer" while Fox unspools its romantic comedy "What Happens in Vegas."