"The Smurfs" may feel especially blue this weekend, because the sequel starring the classic cartoon characters is poised to lose out to the action flick "2 Guns" at the box office.
The latter film, co-starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, will likely debut with a healthy $30 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. "The Smurfs 2," which hit theaters on Wednesday, will make about that much during its first five days of release.
If "The Smurfs" collects around $20 million between Friday and Sunday, its opening will trail far behind the original's $35.6-million three-day launch in 2011. But as domestic interest in the franchise appears to wane, its international prospects are improving. The original film -- which combines both live-action and computer animation -- was a huge hit abroad, grossing roughly 74% of its $563.7- million global total overseas.
The diminutive blue characters are particularly popular with international audiences in part because they originated abroad. "The Smurfs" was initially conceived in 1958 by Belgian comic-book artist Pierre Culliford -- a.k.a. Peyo -- and quickly caught on in French-speaking countries. Americans became familiar with Culliford's work when "The Smurfs" got their own Saturday morning cartoon program in the 1980s.
To capitalize on the 3-D sequel's foreign potential, Sony Pictures on Sunday held 162 simultaneous "blue carpet" premieres in 60 international cities. This weekend, the film will open in 43 foreign markets, including France, Brazil and Russia.
In the sequel, the Smurfs travel to Paris to rescue Smurfette (Katy Perry) from an evil wizard (Hank Azaria). Though the $110-million picture has received even worse critical reviews than the first "Smurfs" movie -- notching just a 15% score on Rotten Tomatoes -- moviegoers don't seem to hate it. Those who saw the film on Wednesday assigned it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore -- the same grade the original received.
"2 Guns," meanwhile, follows two undercover lawmen both separately trying to catch a drug kingpin. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur -- who also helmed Wahlberg's "Contraband" -- the movie has earned middling reviews. Financed by Emmett/Furla Films for $61 million and distributed by Universal Pictures, the film is generating the most interest among younger men.