‘Superbad’ brings buzz to box office

Comedy battles holdovers 'Rush 3,' 'Bourne'

As the summer races to a close, Sony’s R-rated teen laffer “Superbad” will try to live up to its buzz and beat out holdovers “Rush Hour 3” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” in what could be a tight race at the domestic box office.

“Superbad,” directed by Greg Mottola and produced by Judd Apatow, opens today in 2,948 locations. Jonah Hill and Michael Cera star.

Warner Bros. quietly enters the market after an extended delay with Nicole Kidman-Daniel Craig starrer “The Invasion,” a remake of sci-fi classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” that bows in 2,776 theaters. Likewise, the Weinstein Co. quietly opens historical epic “The Last Legion,” starring Colin Firth and Anthony Hopkins, in 2,002.

With awards season approaching, Picturehouse opens Sundance docu “King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” about two men vying for the vidgame Donkey Kong championship, in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Warner Independent Pictures bows environmental docu “The 11th Hour,” narrated and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, in four Gotham and Los Angeles locations.

And MGM opens Sidney Kimmel Entertainment’s family dramedy “Death at a Funeral,” directed by Frank Oz, in 374 locations in key markets. Ensemble cast includes Matthew Macfayden, Keeley Hawes, Andy Nyman and Alan Tudyk.

With “Superbad,” Sony is borrowing a page from Universal, which has enjoyed strong success with lower-budgeted raunchy laffers, including this summer’s sleeper hit “Knocked Up,” directed by Apatow. “Superbad” cost $18 million to produce, according to the studio.

Sony expects “Superbad” to be a strong builder in the manner of comedies like “Knocked Up” and New Line’s “Wedding Crashers.” Challenge will be to lure a broader aud beyond younger men and the teenage set. The pic’s hard R-rating could also dent box office receipts.

With the majors essentially done rolling out their summer fare, “Superbad” should have through Labor Day to play out.

No one is predicting whether “Superbad” will be able to best “Rush Hour 3,” which heads into its second frame, or “Bourne,” which heads into its third.

“Invasion” faced several hurdles in getting to the bigscreen. Oliver Hirschbiegel wrapped lensing in early 2006 — before Craig filmed “Casino Royale–but the studio and producer Joel Silver decided they needed to do reshoots. Andy and Larry Wachowski were brought in for rewrites, with filmmaker James McTeigue directing the new scenes.

Neither “Invasion” nor “Last Legion” is expected to pose strong competition.

On the foreign front, “The Simpsons Movie” goes for its fourth straight win, aided by launches in Brazil, Holland and Russia. Fox’s toon has been a solid performer in most markets and should cross the $250 million mark this weekend.

A trio of holdovers — “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Transformers” and “Ratatouille” — will remain major offshore performers. The Paris-set “Ratatouille” has been impressive in its first two weeks in France with well over $25 million.

“Phoenix” may have enough gas in the tank to become the fourth “Potter” pic to hit the $600 million mark by the end of summer. Only four other movies — “Titanic,” “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” and the second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean” pics — have reached that milestone overseas.

Universal’s international expansion of “The Bourne Ultimatum” should provide competition to the holdovers with openings in its first major markets in the U.K. and Spain along with eight other mid-tier territories. “The Bourne Supremacy” grossed $112 million outside the U.S. in 2004.

“Rush Hour 3” is also expanding, launching in Austria, Germany, Thailand and Hong Kong — two weeks after Chinese censors banned the Jackie Chan comedy. Pic opened with $8.7 million in its first weekend in half a dozen foreign markets, with the U.K. accounting for about two-thirds.

“Rush Hour 2” took in $121 million overseas six years ago.

Other launches include “Evan Almighty” in Belgium and France, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” in Australia, “Surf’s Up” in Spain, “Stardust” in South Korea and “Transformers” in Poland.

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