Comedies Rule Pre-Summer Box Office
By John Hamann
April 27, 2008
It was the weekend before summer box office season, and all through the theater, many comedies were stirring but not breaking out. Yes, BOP and box office fanatics, we are almost to May, when at least one film (Indy 3) will earn more than the current top ten films earned. This weekend, though, is the time for comedy, as the top five films contain three laughers. Openers include Baby Mama with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (and smelling like Lorne Michaels all the way), and Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, the anticipated sequel from the White Castle boys. The rest of the top ten are just waiting for Iron Man and Speed Racer to completely annihilate them.
The weekend was set to be close, as two competing comedies, Baby Mama and Harold and Kumar 2, were vying for box office dollars. The winner of the weekend by a nose is Baby Mama, the latest super-stretch of a could-be Saturday Night Live skit. Baby Mama thrived, earning $18.3 million from 2,543 venues. It had an average of $7,185, the best in the top ten. For a late April release, with no big stars, Universal has to be pleased with this effort, especially considering Baby Mama is going to work well with Forgetting Sarah Marshall as counter-programming against Iron Man and Speed Racer over the next couple of weekends (unless Made of Honor really steps up).
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler aren't big stars, but they were big enough to draw crowds out. Poehler has appeared in more films than Fey, and while she has made some good picks, she is usually well down the casting line-up. Both Fey and Poehler appeared in Mean Girls ($24.4 million opening), but on her own, Poehler is currently appearing in Horton Hears a Who!, and appeared in Mr. Woodcock, Blades of Glory, and Shrek the Third. Tina Fey has only been in one film that has earned more than $1 million (Mean Girls, which she also wrote). On the other hand, Tina Fey is the bigger TV star than Poehler, appearing in and writing for 30 Rock, which has won a handful of Emmys and Golden Globes over the last few years. The real person behind Baby Mama though is producer Lorne Michaels, as Broadway Video (Saturday Night Live) is the producing studio (in association with Relativity Media, which has brought us The Forbidden Kingdom, 21 and Vantage Point this spring). Reviews for Baby Mama were better than I expected. At Rotten Tomatoes, the chick flick comedy managed to stay just fresh, like the bread that's been on the shelf for a while that you examine for green spots (but I digress). Of the 92 reviews counted at RT, 55 were fresh, leaving this one with a 60% fresh rating. I thought the concept and the fact that Fey didn't write this one might leave reviews in the dirt, but it managed to hold its head above water. While there is no budget data currently available, a good guess puts the production cost on this one around $30 million, so Baby Mama will be a decent win for Universal and Broadway Video.