Serious Sandler pic a mystery at B.O.

Will comedy fans come out for Apatow pic?

Will comedy fans support a more serious Adam Sandler?

That’s the key question as Universal opens Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” at 3,008 playdates amid widely varied box office forecasts ranging from the low 20s to the mid 30s.

The consensus is that “Funny People” will out-perform the second frames of Disney’s 3-D toon “G-Force” and Sony romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth” as well as the third sesh of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Fox’s PG family comedy “Aliens in the Attic,” starring Ashley Tisdale, has been positioned in the mix as a counterprogramming play, with 3,105 locations, and should launch in the low teens. And Freestyle’s going after horror buffs with home-invasion thriller “The Collector” at 1,325. Pic is unlikely to approach last weekend’s $12.9 million launch for “Orphan.”

But the focus is squarely on “Funny People,” which co-stars Seth Rogen and Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann.

On the plus side, Sandler’s box office track record is sterling, with 10 titles that have surpassed the $100 million mark in domestic grosses. And U’s extensive promo push has highlighted the pic as Apatow’s third helming effort, after major hits with “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

But “Funny People” has downbeat elements: Sandler’s character deals with a disease, while the pic sports a running time of 150 minutes and an R rating — though the rating didn’t seem to hurt “The Hangover,” now nearing $250 million after two months.

U distribution chief Nikki Rocco notes that the “Funny People” campaign is aimed at positioning the title as a more serious comedy as tentpole season begins winding down.

“We’re extremely optimistic that this is going to have a long run,” she added. “It’s an evolution for Judd Apatow toward more films that deal with real-life issues. I think it can perform along the lines of James L. Brooks movies like ‘Jerry Maguire’ and ‘As Good as It Gets.’ ”

Overall biz is expected to be moderate, with “G-Force,” “The Ugly Truth” and “Half-Blood Prince” contending for the second slot somewhere in the mid to high teens. The sixth “Potter” pic, at $233.8 million as of Wednesday, is expanding its Imax run.

On the specialty front, Summit’s “The Hurt Locker” appears to be the most prominent player, with 285 new screens bringing the total to 523. The well-reviewed Iraq war drama has cumed $4 million in its first month.

Fox Searchlight’s “500 Days of Summer” is also expanding from 85 to 266 after topping $3 million in its first two frames.

Notable specialty launches include Roadside’s dolphin killing docu “The Cove” at four sites, Focus’ Korean vampire thriller “Thirst” at four, Sony Classics’ Belgian drama “Lorna’s Silence” at half a dozen runs, and Magnolia’s Aussie film-biz docu “Not Quite Hollywood” at two.

On the foreign front, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” should lead for the third straight frame. As of Wednesday, the foreign cume had hit $443.3 million.

Disney’s going day and date with “G-Force” in 14 markets including the U.K. and Benelux, while both “Funny People” and “Aliens in the Attic” launch in Russia.

Other prominent international players should be “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” with an eye-popping $514 million banked going into its fifth frame, and Disney’s “Up.”

The Pixar toon — which has cumed a mere $56 million outside the U.S. — is launching into its second wave of international markets, including France, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan. It won’t open in other majors markets such as Germany, Italy and the U.K. until the fall.

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