‘Baby,’ ‘Kumar’ vie for box office

Comedies compete for different audiences

Universal’s “Baby Mama” and New Line/Warner Bros.’ “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” will vie for the loudest laugh when opening at the domestic box office today in what’s shaping up to be a battle of the sexes at the multiplexes.

The other new wide release of the weekend — the final frame before the summer box office officially starts — is Fox’s thriller “Deception,” which isn’t supposed to make much of a dent despite the star billing of Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams. Fox opens the pic in 2,001 locations.

“Baby Mama,” starring comedic duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, should prove fertile ground for woman of all ages, particularly younger ones. Pic, which pokes fun at America’s obsession with babies and surrogate motherhood, is rated PG-13 and opens in 2,543 runs.

Stoner comedy “Harold & Kumar,” starring John Cho and Kal Penn, is tracking strongest among younger men. Next up are older males. The R-rated pic, an irreverent look at the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 policies and a follow-up to DVD cult fave “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” opens in 2,510.

“Harold & Kumar” is the first New Line film released by Warner since New Line was disbanded as a standalone mini-major and made a label within the WB fold.

The first “Harold & Kumar” film, released in 2004, cumed only $18 million at theaters but went on to become a DVD hit.

“Baby Mama” marks back-to-back comedy releases by Universal. Last weekend, U opened the Judd Apatow-produced “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” to $17.7 million. Pic placed No. 2 for the frame after Lionsgate’s Jet Li-Jackie Chan starrer “Forbidden Kingdom,” which opened to $21.4 million.

Universal has insisted that “Baby Mama” won’t take auds away from “Sarah Marshall.” Nor does the studio expect “Harold & Kumar” to pose a problem, saying the marketplace can shoulder three wide comedies.

Through Wednesday, “Sarah Marshall” grossed $22.6 million, “Forbidden Kingdom” $25.8 million.

On the specialty side, ThinkFilm bows dramedy “Then She Found Me,” directed by Helen Hunt, in nine theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Hunt stars alongside Colin Firth, Bette Midler and Matthew Broderick.

Samuel Goldwyn bows French crime suspenser “Roman de Gare” in two theaters in New York and L.A.

Opening wider, in 50 theaters, is Gil Cates Jr.’s poker drama “Deal,” starring Burt Reynolds and Bret Harrison. MGM is distributing.

Caroline Zelder’s family pic “A Plumm Summer,” which NewStyle is distributing, opens in 58. Cast includes Jeff Daniels, William Baldwin and Henry Winkler.

Several documentaries open, including Errol Morris’ “Standard Operating Procedure,” about the Abu Ghraib prisoner photographs taken by American military officers. Sony Pictures Classics debuts the film in two theaters in Gotham and Los Angeles.

Indican debuts Jeremy Dean’s docu “Dare Not Walk Alone,” about the impact of the civil rights movement on St. Augustine, Fla., in three runs.

On the foreign front, prospects are moderate, with new releases limited to a few targeted markets. Studios have opted to hold off on openings in recent frames ahead of next week’s launch of “Iron Man,” starting with France, Italy and South Korea on Wednesday. Pic opens domestically May 2.

Sony’s “21” may be able to rack up its second win in a row after taking in $10 million last weekend even though its only expansion is coming in Middle East markets. The gambling thriller’s cumed about $25 million early in its foreign run.

Fox’s “Horton Hears a Who!” will also be a player via holdover biz, with foreign grosses at about $120 million.

Prehistoric actioner “10,000 B.C.” could be a contender for the top slot as it goes into Japan long after completing most of its foreign run with $160 million — the biggest international cume of any 2008 title this year.

“Deception” is the only domestic opener going day-and-date in international markets with launches in Australia, Russia and the U.K.

Other openers include “27 Dresses” in France, “Fool’s Gold” in Italy and Spain, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” in Russia and the U.K., “Leatherheads” in France, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” in Japan, “Street Kings” in Spain and “Stop-Loss” in the U.K.

(Dave McNary contributed to this article.)

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