BOX OFFICE: Are Two Comedy Duos Too Much?

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November kicks off with two strong comedy duos, although we have a feeling that the pairing of Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller in the heist comedy Tower Heist (Universal) will overshadow the other R-rated comedy, because it’s likely to interest a much wider audience. Murphy has been absent for quite some time and Tower Heist returns him to the type of comedy his adult fans will dig, plus he’s paired with Ben Stiller, who has become one of the top comic actors in terms of box office clout with a number of blockbuster franchises under his belt. On top of that, the duo are surrounded by an impressive and diverse cast including Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Tea Leoni and Gabby Sidibe from Precious, and it’s directed by Brett Ratner, who was responsible for the hit “Rush Hour” movies. There’s something both timely and relatable about working class stiff fighting back against the rich and powerful that screw them, and the racial diversity among the cast should make it a draw for urban audiences, both men and women, above and beyond most of the releases over the last few months. Universal definitely could use a hit, having not really connected with very much since the comedy Bridesmaids over the summer, and we think this should be a decent draw now that baseball season is over, Halloween is past, and people will want to get out of the house following last week’s snowstorm. High 20s is a given but we can see this doing over $30 million and having strong legs over the course of the month.

Even if Tower Heist seems like an easy sell, one may be equally surprised how many fans the “Harold & Kumar” movies have among younger males in high school and college, which is why New Line are going back to the well for a third time after the surprising success of Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. With A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (New Line/Warner Bros.), the pot-smoking duo of Kal Penn and John Cho take on one of the greatest film traditions, the Christmas movie, with a similar level of raunch. One can expect that lots of the duo’s male fans will be out to see the movie, and maybe a couple young women will be attracted by the film’s desire to get moviegoers into the holiday vibe. 3D ticket prices certainly should be taken into account in this case because it’s a comedy that takes advantage of the medium with 3D-specific humor, which should help it open at least as well as its predecessor in the high teens.

Either way, this should be an interesting weekend because normally, the first weekend of November is when things start to get busy again at the box office after two-and-a-half slow months, and we wonder if either or both new movies might end up exploding as people start running out of excuses to go to the movies. We also think that some of the movies affected by the snowstorm last weekend will have a stronger hold this week.

As far as the limited releases, if you’re a fan of modern punk rock, then Andrea Blaugrund Nevins’ doc The Other F Word (Oscilloscope Pictures) looks at Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg, skateboard legend Tony Hawk and others who grew out of the L.A. punk rock scene who have been in the business so long that they now have families. (The title “F” word is “fatherhood” if you couldn’t guess.) It includes interviews from the likes of Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Mark Hoppus (Blink-182) and members of The Adolescents, Rancid, NOFX and other punk bands who are trying to make a living to support their family while remaining true to their anti-establishment roots.

I really liked Dennis Farina’s performance in Joe Maggio’s drama The Last Rites of Joe May (Tribeca Films), playing an aging Chicago street hustler who gets out of the hospital after months away and has to adjust to a new life living with a single mother. It’s been playing on VOD for the last week but also opens in New York Friday. Ben Barnes and Rob Sheehan star in Nick Hamm’s comedy Killing Bono (ARC Entertainment) based on music journalist Neil McCormick’s memoirs as he was trying to make it as a musician with his brother, while always being in the shadow of a certain group of boys from Dublin who went onto greater acclaim. You can watch or read my interviews with Farina and Barnes here and here.

We weren’t really fans of Dito Montiel’s police drama The Son of No One (Anchor Bay) when we saw it at Sundance, but you can read our career analysis of its star Channing Tatum over here.

This weekend last year saw the box office pick up in a big way as three new movies opened in wide release, all grossing over $19 million. Will Ferrell starred as the voice of Megamind, the animated super-villain turned hero in the latest from DreamWorks Animation, which opened with a strong $46 million. Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis were teamed in Todd Phillips’ road comedy Due Date (Warner Bros.), which opened decently with $32.7 million for 2nd place, while Tyler Perry adapted the play For Colored Girls (Lionsgate) with a star-studded cast that still led to one of his weaker openings with just $19.5 million. The Top 10 grossed $138 million but unless either of the two new movies do way better than we’re expecting, this weekend will be way down from last year, partially due to the decision to move Puss in Boots to last week.

This Week’s Predictions

1. Tower Heist (Universal) – $30.3 million N/A

2. Puss In Boots (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $22 million -35%

3. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (New Line/WB) – $17.5 million N/A

4. Paranormal Activity 3 (Paramount) – $8.5 million -55%

5. In Time (20th Century Fox) – $5.8 million -52%

6. Footloose (Paramount) – $3.5 million -35%

7. Real Steel (DreamWorks) – $3.1 million -35%

8. The Rum Diary (FilmDistrict) – $3.0 million -42%

9. The Ides of March (Sony) – $2.0 million -29%

10. Moneyball (Sony) – $1.6 million -33%

Note: Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous should be expanding into more theaters on Friday, and we think that depending on how many, it could break into the Top 10 this weekend.

Next week, the month of November rolls along with three very different movies, Tarsem’s ancient Greek war epic Immortals (Relativity), the latest Adam Sandler comedy Jack and Jill (Sony Pictures) and Clint Eastwood’s biopic J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas