It’s early still, but I’m told that today’s release of mogul-in-the-making producer Judd Apatow’s Superbad is already doing better than expected at the domestic box office. After weeks when the pic’s awareness level was tracking lower than had been hoped, overwhelmingly great reviews from even prestige media like The New York Times are making the difference. So much so that sources tell me Sony is now projecting a supergood $25 million opening for the low-cost coming of age comedy playing in 2,948 theaters. As of last night, my box office gurus predicted a three-way race for No. 1 this weekend. Expectations were for the trio of films to all finish at $20 mil: New Line’s Rush Hour 3 to drop 60%, Universal’s The Bourne Ultimatum to go down 40%, and newcomer Superbad to open well. But now the little laugher is pulling ahead. No one’s expecting much from Warner’s The Invasion which, four directors later, hits 2,776 venues.
Meanwhile, The Weinstein Co’s The Last Legion making 2,002 runs should tank despite those ads making the movie look like a clone of the hit pic 300. Oy, talk about problems: Legion was supposed to be released back in October 2006, then moved down, and moved down again, to April. Finally, an agreement was reached whereby TWC had to distribute The Last Legion in at least 1,500 theaters by August 24th. (I’ve heard differing accounts of whether, if that deadline wasn’t met, a $5 mil penalty kicked in or not.) Anyway, insiders have complained to me that the P&A money was kept to only a bare minimum. (The word “dumped” was even used in screaming matches, I’m told.) I understand Dino and Martha De Laurentiis are not exactly happy campers since this film has consumed five years of their lives and now it’s barely registering with the moviegoing public in awareness.