More than 'Iron' in the fire

 'Made of Honor' sees opportunity in counterprogramming

Tagging along behind "Iron Man" in the Robert Downey Jr. starrer's march to the boxoffice altar this weekend will be Sony's counterprogramming 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 in the days of 4,000-theater runs.

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.

"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. In June 2006, 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. On May 9, Warners will unspool its family-oriented action film "Speed Racer" while Fox unspools its romantic comedy "What Happens in Vegas." (partialdiff)