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Movie Projector: Farrelly brothers' 'Hall Pass' to top Nicolas Cage's 'Drive Angry'

February 24, 2011 |  1:13 pm

HallpassFor the first time in more than a decade, the Farrelly brothers could claim the No. 1 spot at the box office.

"Hall Pass," the latest raunch fest from writer-director team Peter and Bobby Farrelly, probably will have a debut of about $20 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

The weekend's other new release, the 3-D action film "Drive Angry," starring Nicolas Cage, is expected to trail far behind with about $10 million.

"Hall Pass," which stars Owen Wilson and Jason Sudekis as two friends whose wives allow them to sleep around for a week, cost New Line Cinema about $36 million to produce, meaning the film should be off to a good start this weekend. As with most of the Farrelly brothers' movies, polling indicates it is generating more interest among men than women.

"Hall Pass" comes on the heels of a string of disappointing releases from the filmmaker siblings: "The Heartbreak Kid," "Fever Pitch" and "Stuck on You" all opened to less than $15 million. Eleven years ago, their comedy "Me, Myself and Irene" debuted in the top spot with $24.2 million, but the directors have yet to duplicate the blockbuster success of earlier offerings like their 1998 hit "There's Something About Mary," which grossed $176.5 million domestically.

Nick"Drive Angry," meanwhile, stands to lose a lot of money if projections are correct. The film, which is being distributed by Summit Entertainment, was produced and financed by Avi Lerner's Nu Image Films for between $45 million and $50 million.

The movie, which is appealing mostly to older males, features Cage as a man who breaks out of hell to avenge the death of his daughter.

Like the Farrellys, Cage could use a box-office hit. The most recent film in which he starred, January's poorly reviewed "Season of the Witch," failed to resonate with American audiences, grossing $24.5 million. Last summer's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," an adventure movie that cost Disney about $150 million to produce, collected only $63.1 million in the U.S., although it fared better overseas with $152.1 million in ticket sales.

While "Hall Pass" and "Drive Angry" are the only two new films opening wide this weekend, they will still have to compete for the attention of movie lovers with the telecast of the Academy Awards on Sunday.

Not that Oscar weekend presented any serious challenge to "Alice in Wonderland" last year, when the film topped the box office with a phenomenal $116.1 million.

Oscar producers have tapped actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco to host the telecast this year in an effort to lure  a younger audience. But there's one group of young'uns who probably will be beyond reach this weekend: the Beliebers. Starting Friday, Paramount Insurge is releasing a new director's cut of the 3-D documentary "Never Say Never," about Justin Bieber. The move is an attempt to capitalize on the interest of the pop star's young fans, since concert films don't traditionally have a long shelf life, and a quick-turnaround re-release is a way to keep the momentum going.

So far the film has grossed more than $50 million. Paramount is keeping the new version on 3-D screens for only one week, which means those stricken with Bieber Fever will have only a limited amount of time to feed their obsession.

--Amy Kaufman

Photos (from top): Jason Sudekis and Owen Wilson star in "Hall Pass." Credit: Warner Bros. Nicolas Cage stars in "Drive Angry." Credit: Summit Entertainment.

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