After making his name as a supporting player in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" and "The Avengers" and top-lining in the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker," Jeremy Renner will try to prove he can kick butt himself at the box office this weekend in "The Bourne Legacy."
The relaunch of the spy franchise that started a decade ago with star Matt Damon is expected to have a healthy debut of about $45 million in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
It is certain to be No. 1 at the box office, replacing "The Dark Knight Rises" after that Batman film held the top spot for the last three weeks.
With a new star and a new director in Tony Gilroy -- who had a writing credit on the previous three films in the action series, and co-wrote this one -- "The Bourne Legacy" is not expected to match the last entry, 2007's "The Bourne Ultimatum," which opened to $69.3 million.
It should be a strong weekend at the box office overall, as two other new films are also likely to have solid launches. "The Campaign," a political comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, is expected to take in $30 million during its first three days in theaters.
"Hope Springs," a romantic comedy about a long-married couple (played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones), hit cinemas on Wednesday as Sony Pictures tried to get a jump on the weekend competition. The inexpensive picture grossed an estimated $2.2 million on Wednesday and will likely collect about $15 million by Sunday.
It took several years for Universal Pictures to decide how to continue the "Bourne" franchise after Damon and director Paul Greengrass declined to return. Because the franchise was one of Universal's most lucrative -- the first three films have a total of $944 million in ticket sales worldwide -- the studio was hell-bent on finding a way to make it work.
Enter "Michael Clayton" director Gilroy, who came up with the new story line about an even more covert government program.
With slightly dimmer commercial prospects, given the new star, Universal spent a bit less on the fourth movie than the third, budgeting "The Bourne Legacy" at a cost of between $125 million and $130 million, and co-financing the picture with Relativity Media. If the movie is successful, Renner's super-spy could continue as a franchise of its own.
Meanwhile, "The Campaign" hits theaters late in a summer when big-name comedy stars have failed to draw audiences to the multiplex. Adam Sandler's latest flick "That's My Boy" fell far short of his usual $100-million domestic benchmark, and even the combination of Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill wasn't able to attract moviegoers to "The Watch."
Warner Bros. is hopeful that "The Campaign," about two candidates vying for a seat in Congress, will buck that trend. Galifianakis is hot off of the "Hangover" series, but Ferrell's last two major star vehicles, "The Other Guys" and "Land of the Lost," were both box-office disappointments.
"The Campaign" has so far generated largely positive reviews, as has "Hope Springs." The latter movie is being distributed by Sony, which together with partner Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought domestic distribution rights from financier Mandate Pictures for about $15 million. The film had a total cost of about $30 million.
Sony is playing up the film's strong performances from Streep and Jones as a way to attract older moviegoers to theaters. Movies aimed at adults have done well in August the last few years, with examples including "The Help" and "Julie & Julia."
However, the key for "Hope Springs" will be word of mouth, as people over 40 tend not to rush to see new films on opening weekends.
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