* "Funny People" tops with $23.4 million
* Setbacks for Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow
* Extends Universal Pictures' losing streak
(recasts lead; adds studio comment, other films)
LOS ANGELES, Aug 2 Adam Sandler suffered his
worst opening at the North American box office in almost five
years on Sunday with "Funny People," a chart-topping comedy
darker than the low-brow fare beloved by his young fans.
According to studio estimates, the film sold $23.4 million
worth of tickets in the three days since opening across the
United States and Canada on Friday. It's the lowest start for a
No. 1 movie since Jim Carrey's "Yes Man" launched with $18.3
million last December.
Sandler plays a comedian diagnosed with a fatal blood
disease who then tries to break up a marriage. Top critics
disliked the movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes
(www.rottentomatoes.com), a website that analyzes
His previous worst opening was "Spanglish," which started
off with $8.8 million in December 2004. His big summer movie
last year, "You Don't Mess with the Zohan," opened to $38.5
million but stalled at $100 million.
"Funny People" was directed by Judd Apatow, who was dubbed
the smartest person in Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly in
2007. His "Knocked Up" opened to $31 million in 2007 and
finished with $149 million.
The new film is the latest summer disappointment for its
distributor, Universal Pictures. The General Electric Co (GE.N)
unit recently released the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy "Bruno,"
which quickly lost steam at the box office, and the Johnny Depp
gangster drama "Public Enemies," which failed to hit $100
million. It ranks last among the big six studios in market
share this year, according to Box Office Mojo
LOW END OF FORECASTS
Industry forecasts for "Funny People" had ranged between
the low-$20 million to the mid-$30 million area, according to
trade paper Daily Variety.
But Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said the
movie opened "exactly where we thought it would be" given its
darker themes. The studio said it cost $75 million to make,
although some reports have said the bill was closer to $100
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was No. 2 for a
second weekend with $17.7 million. The 19-day haul for the
sixth entry in the fantasy series stands at $255.5 million. Its
2007 predecessor, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,"
had earned $242 million at the same stage.
Internationally, the new film has earned $492 million,
including a $66.5 million contribution from Britain. The films
were released by Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc
Last weekend's champ, the Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) rodent
cartoon "G-Force" fell to No. 3 with $17.1 million. Its 10-day
haul was $66.5 million.
The Katherine Heigl romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth"
slipped one place to No. 4 with $13 million, taking its 10-day
tally to $54.5 million. It was released by Columbia Pictures, a
unit of Sony Corp (6758.T) (SNE.N).
The 20th Century Fox family movie "Aliens in the Attic"
opened at No. 5 with a disappointing $7.8 million. It had been
expected to open in the double digits. The News Corp
(NWSA.O)-owned studio said it cost $45 million to make.
(Editing by Bill Trott)