Judd Apatow will direct those next 3 films, so Universal will now be his helming home. Obviously, this means the studio has great faith in his pic Funny People opening this weekend which already has a Rotten Tomatoes positive review score of 70+%. Although there’ve been media doubts about the film’s 2-hour, 25-minute length and dramedy subject matter, weekend estimates now range from Universal’s $25M (to lower expectations), to rival studios’ high $30sM and even $40M. The tracking is showing big and broad 4-quadrant appeal, with the most interest coming from young men and even older females. But Universal keeps comparing this R-rated pic to a Jim Brooks-type direction, and his more successful movies only opened in the high teens but then enjoyed a huge multiple. Given the studio’s trouble at the box office this summer, Funny People must make at least $100M domestic. Its cost is estimated at $70M.

Apatow has only helmed films at Universal after making his directorial debut in 2005 with the breakout comedy hit starring Steve Carell and Catherine Keener, The 40-Year Old Virgin. The film made over $177 million worldwide and was largely credited for setting a new standard in raunchy but heartfelt adult comedies that were smart and cutting-edge. In 2007, Apatow directed Knocked Up for Universal, a breakout laugher hit starring Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann that made over $219 million worldwide. (Interestingly, Funny People is not that much longer than Knocked Up.) Apatow also created a comedy wheel-type ensemble cast for his movies, helping launch a number of big-screen comedy careers including Carell, Rogen, Heigl, Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Jonah Hill.