Forecast: Comedy Counter-Programming Can't Cancel Out 'Transformers'
This weekend, a family comedy dukes it out with an adult comedy, but both are likely to debut in the shadow of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Zookeeper goes to over 4,500 screens at 3,482 locations, while Horrible Bosses punches in on around 3,600 screens at 3,062 locations.

From the outset of the summer, Zookeeper seemed to have the formula for success locked down, while Horrible Bosses was the likely lower grosser, in part due to its dark comedy angle. But the tide may have turned as July 8 approached. The transparently formulaic Zookeeper seemed to lose momentum, while Horrible Bosses earned a promotion.

Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" polling predictably has favored Horrible Bosses over Zookeeper, but indicated interest in Zookeeper was at sub-Mr. Popper's Penguins levels, coming in at just over six percent for opening weekend. Horrible Bosses, on the other hand, scored over 20 percent for opening weekend, which was better than Bad Teacher's 18 percent.

After Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part II and Bad Teacher, R-rated comedies seem to be on a tear this summer, but people don't see comedies for their MPAA ratings. They see them if they look funny, and Horrible Bosses' aggressive marketing has delivered on that front, clearly laying out the movie's Strangers on a Train meets Office Space (or male 9 to 5) premise. Most working people can relate to being frustrated by their bosses, and there may be catharsis in seeing these bosses get their comeuppance, though Jennifer Aniston's "Maneater" may not compute on this front.

Like The Hangover, Horrible Bosses features a trio of male friends (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day) on a mission involving wacky characters and situations. The casting of Kevin Spacey (Swimming with Sharks) as the "Psycho" boss and Aniston (Office Space) as the "Maneater" certainly is a plus as well as Colin Farrell as the "Tool." Jamie Foxx had Farrell's back in Miami Vice, now he's helping to kill him as the "murder consultant" (featured in his own character poster).

Zookeeper hasn't been able to shake its status as a contrived mash-up of Night at the Museum, Doctor Dolittle and Hitch. Star Kevin James is on familiar ground, angling to repeat the success he had with Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Hitch. Like it or not, though, talking animal movies are consistently popular. Even Yogi Bear hit $100 million, though that had some brand recognition. Much of Zookeeper's lackluster advertising has focused on large animals, a gorilla in particular, but talking animal movies tend to fare better when the critters are small.

The Forecast, July 8-10

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - $44 million

2. Horrible Bosses - $29 million

3. Zookeeper - $24 million

4. Cars 2 - $14 million

Bar for Success

Given their respective genres, the bar is higher for Zookeeper than it is for Horrible Bosses. A big summertime talking animal movie like Zookeeper should be doing over $30 million for its first weekend, whlie Horrible Bosses could get by on around $20 million.

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Comps for:

'Horrible Bosses'