Will Ferrell's Anchorman 2 grossed an estimated $2.3 million in Tuesday-night sneak showings.
The take was a good start for the comedy sequel that could upend The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for the weekend box-office win, and perhaps a sign that its star's nonstop publicity stunts as his Ron Burgundy alter ego were as effective as they were, of course, classy.
"People are definitely responding to this unconventional approach," BoxOffice.com editor Phil Contrino said via email, "and it should pay off nicely."
Anchorman 2, which formally opened Wednesday, has been projected to gross at least $30 million and as much as $50 million in its opening Friday-Sunday frame. To overtake the latest Hobbit movie for No. 1, the Ferrell vehicle probably will have to come up with about $40 million.
Ferrell's first film about his mustached news reader, Anchorman: The Legendy of Ron Burgundy, debuted to a surprising $28 million.
While that 2004 movie was a bottomline success, grossing $85 million domestically, Ferrell had to work hard to get a sequel greenlighted. Once he got the go-ahead, he didn't stop working hard.
In recent months, Ferrell, appearing as Burgundy in the character's early-1980s finest, sold trucks via a series of Dodge Durango spots, moonlighted for ESPN, sat in on Dan Patrick's national radio show and coanchored the evening news for KXMB-TV in Bismarck, N.D.
The star's everywhere-ness added up to "at least $20 million in free publicity," Anchorman 2 director-cowriter Adam McKay estimated to Entertainment Weekly.
Publicist and marketing strategist Maggie Jessup called the Burgundy blitz "brilliant."
"It's not enough to put out a commercial during the Super Bowl," Jessup said. "You do have to work a bit harder…And you have to be original. And this is original."
Don't miss the E! Entertainment special, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, hosted by E! News' Giuliana Rancic, premiering tonight at 9 p.m.!