"The Hangover Part III" is on its way to becoming the year's biggest movie comedy at the box office, but that's not saying a lot this year.
After debuting Thursday, Warner Bros.' finale in the raunchy and R-rated film franchise from director Todd Phillips was on course to take in more than $51 million over the long weekend. But the film's Wolf Pack – including stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis – has lost some box office bite. Just two years ago, "The Hangover II" debuted with $85 million over the Memorial Day weekend.
And "Hangover III" came up way short in its head-to-head battle with "Fast and Furious 6," the Universal action movie that is driving the Memorial Day weekend to a record total with a projected $122 million haul.
The summer's first wide-opening comedy will likely have taken in more than $63 million by Monday night and added $19 million in a limited overseas debut, and that's not bad for the co-production with Legendary Pictures, which carries a production budget of $103 million.
But analysts and the studios expected it to do better, at least in the $70 million range. And the fact is that the state of movie comedies, at least to this point in 2013, is no laughing matter in terms of the box office.
"Identity Thief," with stars Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, was a pleasant surprise for Universal, taking in more than $133 million domestically and another $38 million overseas since opening in January. Marlon Wayans' horror spoof "Haunted House," which opened that same month, brought in $40 million for Open Road.
But other than those two films, even big names haven't been able to generate enough chuckles to register at the box office.
Steve Carrell and Jim Carey sent up the Las Vegas magic scene in Warner Bros.' "The Incredible Bert Wonderstone," but that one failed to connect, taking in just $22 million domestically. Universal's "Admission," starring Tina Fey as a college administrator, flunked at $17 million. And Lionsgate's "Big Wedding," with Robert De Niro and Katherine Heigl topping an ensemble cast, misfired at $20 million.
Also read: 5 of Summer's Biggest Box-Office Smackdowns
Exhibitor Relations vice president and senior analyst Jeff Bock was among those surprised that "Hangover III" didn't do better.
"It's been a long time since people have gotten their kicks from a comedy," told TheWrap just prior to its release, "and people see the 'Hangover' movies as something they can count on."
Besides the competition from "Fast & Furious 6" and strong holdovers, the latest "Hangover" was beaten up by the critics, and had just a 21 percent positive rating on the review-aggregating web site Rotten Tomatoes. And opening night audiences weren't particularly impressed; it drew a "B" CinemaScore.