Gay Austrian fashion devotee Brüno has landed the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office, though it's uncertain how much staying power he has.
Sacha Baron Cohen's "Brüno" started big on opening day Friday but had a huge drop the rest of the weekend, with the Universal Pictures mock documentary finishing with $30.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The movie took in nearly half of its weekend total — $14.4 million — on Friday, then tumbled with just $8.8 million Saturday and an estimated $7.2 million Sunday.
Revenues for hit movies typically go up on Saturday, so the nosedive for "Brüno" could be a sign that it lacks the shelf life that made Baron Cohen's "Borat" a $100 million smash.
"It is unusual for a film to drop on Saturday. Normally, you expect the film at least to be even on Saturday or above compared to Friday, because Saturday is the biggest moviegoing day of the weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. "It's going to be interesting to see how it does over the long run."
"Brüno," which features Baron Cohen as a wannabe going to extremes to achieve celebrity, finished ahead of 20th Century Fox's "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," which took second with $28.5 million. The "Ice Age" sequel raised its domestic total to $120.6 million.
Finishing third after two weekends in the No. 1 spot was Paramount's sci-fi blockbuster "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" with $24.2 million, raising its domestic haul to $339.2 million. The sequel passed the $319 million total of 2007's "Transformers."
‘Brüno’ beat ‘Borat’
"Brüno" outpaced the $26.5 million opening weekend for Baron Cohen's surprise 2006 hit "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." "Borat" started with $9.2 million on opening day Friday then climbed to $10.1 million Saturday, a sign that fans were talking it up to friends.
That good word-of-mouth propelled "Borat" to a long run at theaters, the movie climbing to a $128.5 million domestic total.
"Borat" also scored its big opening weekend in far fewer theaters. "Brüno” debuted in 2,756 cinemas, more than three times the number for "Borat."
Nikki Rocco, head of distribution at Universal, said comedies such as "Brüno" typically drop off over opening weekend this time of year, while "Borat" opened in November, when audiences are less fickle than summer crowds.
The studio will have to wait until next weekend for a sense of how well "Brüno" can hold up for the long haul.
"I don't know. That crystal ball just isn't on my desk this morning," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. "Zany comedies tend to be like that, so I'm hoping that in the scheme of things, it just plays out the way zany comedies will play out."
Reviews on "Brüno" were not as strong as those for "Borat," which critics generally liked. There also had been questions about whether Baron Cohen's flamboyantly gay persona might prove off-putting to audiences.
"Brüno" did most of its business in cities on the East and West coasts, while revenues were "softer, much softer in middle America," Rocco said.
Even if revenues continue to plunge, "Brüno" is well on its way to turning a profit for Universal, which paid $42.5 million for rights to distribute it domestically and in eight other territories. "Brüno" took in $25 million in overseas markets so far, including $20 million in those Universal acquired, among them Great Britain, Australia and Germany.
Modi Wiczyk — co-chief executive officer of Media Rights Capital, which financed "Brüno" — said the movie exceeded the company's expectations. Wiczyk said he had anticipated "Brüno" would finish in the range of $25 million domestically for the weekend.
"We don't have talking robots or karate in our film," Wiczyk said. "For that increasingly small subset of films that don't have robots, we did terrific."