Two guys named Chuck and Larry edged out a teenager named Harry at the weekend box office. Adam Sandler and Kevin James' comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" overcame bad reviews to debut ahead of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," according to studio estimates Sunday. But they were close enough that there was a slight chance rankings could change when final weekend figures come out Monday.
Universal reported that "Chuck & Larry" took in $34.8 million, while Warner Bros. reported "Order of the Phoenix" at $32.2 million. Other studios were tracking "Chuck & Larry" in the $33 million range, which could make the No. 1 movie too close to call.
"I think it'll be decided Monday morning," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros.
Universal head of distribution Nikki Rocco said the weekend was no contest.
"I'm not going to underestimate Adam Sandler and his fan base in the middle of summer," Rocco said. "We're by far the No. 1 film."
New Line's musical "Hairspray," featuring John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer and Queen Latifah in an adaptation of the Broadway smash, opened a strong No. 3 with $27.8 million.
Hollywood had a solid weekend no matter which movie ends up No. 1. The top 12 movies took in $147.6 million, up 3.5 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" was No. 1 with $35.2 million.
To report weekend numbers, studios use actual grosses from Friday and Saturday and make estimates for Sunday based on past performance of similar movies. Being the first report on weekend business, the estimates draw more audience attention than Monday's final figures, so the No. 1 spot Sunday is a coveted position.
"These estimates are in some ways more important than the final Monday figures," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "They're often the first impression and for some people maybe the only impression they have of the box office for the weekend."
"Chuck & Larry" stars Sandler as a firefighter who poses as a gay partner for a widower colleague (James) so his pal can maintain life insurance for his kids.
The movie followed the usual pattern for Sandler comedies: Critics trashed it but loyal fans turned up.
"The beauty of Adam Sandler is his fan base adores him, and he delivers on comedy," Universal's Rocco said. "Adam is a star, and I can tell you we know we're on the way with another $100 million movie for Adam."
"Order of the Phoenix," which debuted at No. 1 the previous weekend, raised its domestic total to $207.5 million.
Fellman said the movie lost some business this weekend because of the mania over Saturday's publication of J.K. Rowling's final book in the fantasy series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
"They wanted to get that book Saturday, lock themselves in the house and read it, because they didn't want their other friends by Monday telling them who made it and who didn't," said Fellman of Warner Bros.
"Hairspray" follows the musical adventures of a tubby teen (newcomer Nikki Blonsky) who sets out to racially integrate a TV dance show in the 1960s. The stage musical on which it is based was in turn adapted from John Waters' 1988 cult flick.
Women made up just over two-thirds of the "Hairspray" audience, said David Tuckerman, head of distribution for New Line. The studio hopes good word of mouth will keep the crowds coming and bring in more men in subsequent weekends, Tuckerman said.
"We knew getting the guys on opening weekend was going to be difficult. We knew `Chuck & Larry' would get the guys and we wouldn't," Tuckerman said.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight's sci-fi tale "Sunshine" opened to big numbers, pulling in $235,477 in 10 theaters. Directed by Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting," "28 Days Later"), the film stars Cillian Murphy and Michelle Yeoh as members of a space crew trying to re-ignite the dying sun 50 years from now.
"Sunshine" expands to about 400 theaters Friday.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," $34.8 million.
2. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," $32.2 million.
3. "Hairspray," $27.8 million.
4. "Transformers," $20.5 million.
5. "Ratatouille," $11 million.
6. "Live Free or Die Hard," $7.3 million.
7. "License to Wed," $3.8 million.
8. "1408," $2.6 million.
9. "Evan Almighty," $2.5 million.
10. "Knocked Up," $2.3 million.