Little Nicky's Earnings Shrink

Adam Sandler's Hades-themed new comedy, Little Nicky, is having a hell of a time at the box office.

When box-office estimates were issued Sunday, Nicky distributor New Line Cinema placed the devilish laffer at No. 2 with a projected $18.1 million three-day haul. That's small potatoes for a Sandler blockbuster — his last two movies, 1999's Big Daddy and 1998's The Waterboy, launched with $41.5 million and $39.4 million, respectively. The real rub, however, is that when actual box-office receipts came out Monday, New Line noted that Little Nicky had actually only made $15.3 million, nearly $3 million less than the studio's original estimate.

New Line spokesman Steve Elzer told Reuters that the studio bumped up Nicky's numbers due to schools being closed for the Veteran's Day holiday Monday, which would typically mean more kids (a key contingent in a Sandler audience) filling theater seats.

"It's much ado about nothing," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co., tells Mr. Showbiz. "Estimates are estimates; sometimes they're high, and sometimes they're low — it happens." But, he adds, since Little Nicky was not in a close battle with last weekend's clear No. 1 movie, Charlie's Angels, New Line's over-estimation isn't a big deal.

"It's not like the Florida [presidential] recount," he laughs. "If it was a fight for No. 1, it'd be something to talk about, but it's not. New Line has a formula for calculations, and it was a valid conclusion for them to [assume that more kids would be out of school watching movies]."

Are lower ticket sales a sign that the former Saturday Night Live cast member has lost his moneymaking magic? Perhaps. Nicky reportedly cost $80 million to make, Reuters notes, meaning that those box-office numbers have got to improve swiftly in order for the film to get into the black.

With heavy competition from the $75 million-grossing Angels and Jim Carrey's upcoming Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Sandler may not stand a chance in hell.