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'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Mad Max' eye $40-million premieres

'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Mad Max' eye $40-million premieres
This photo released by Universal Pictures shows, from left, Ester Dean as Cynthia Rose, Shelley Regner as Ashley, Kelley Alice Jakle as Jessica, Hailee Steinfeld as Emily, Anna Kendrick as Beca, Brittany Snow as Chloe, Alexis Knapp as Stacie, Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy, and Hana Mae Lee as Lilly in a scene from the film, "Pitch Perfect 2." (Richard Cartwright / AP)

"Pitch Perfect 2" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" are both expected to premiere with about $40 million this weekend, putting them in a close race for first with "Avengers: Age of Ultron."

The a capella comedy could sing with between $35 million to $45 million, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys. "Mad Max: Fury Road" is also on track to make $35 million to $40 million. Meanwhile, Marvel's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" may continue its winning streak by adding $35 million to $40 million in its third weekend.

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The original "Pitch Perfect" followed a college a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, as they worked and bonded to compete in a national singing competition. The eclectic group included the artsy, aspiring producer Becca (Anna Kendrick), the hilarious Australian jokester "Fat Amy" (Rebel Wilson) and the aca-obsessed overachiever Chloe (Brittany Snow).

The sequel, which cost $29 million to make, takes place when most of the group's members are seniors in college. This time around, the Bellas must fight to be taken seriously after Fat Amy accidentally exposes herself to President Obama during a performance. To maintain the group's legacy, they must win a world competition. Hailee Steinfeld plays new member Emily. Elizabeth Banks, who has a role in both films, directed and produced the second installment.

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Universal Pictures, which is releasing the film, reported earlier this week that the sequel opened over the weekend at No. 1 in Australia and New Zealand with $9.19 million, surpassing the original film's ticket sales in those markets by more than 300%. It became the first film to dethrone Marvel blockbuster "Avengers: Age of Ultron" in any market around the world.

In 2012, Universal released the first film in a limited number of theaters before expanding it to theaters nationwide, with its first weekend of wide release bringing in about $14.7 million.

Propelled by positive word of mouth, the comedy went on to become a global phenomenon, pulling in a whopping $115 million worldwide. Self-proclaimed "acanerds" later purchased the film, making it one of the top-performing DVD, VOD and pay-cable titles of 2013.  The film's soundtrack went platinum with more than 1 million units sold and Kendrick's single "Cups" spent 50 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.

Hundreds of fans crowded the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live last week, some arriving as early as 9 a.m. and braving rain showers, to get prime spots in the "fan pit" set up in the middle of the premiere's black carpet. So far, the film has received a solid 75% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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A cappella fandom has inspired a wave of programming, including Fox's iconic show "Glee," which ended its run earlier this year. Nick Lachey plays host to NBC's a capella competition show, "The Sing Off." And most recently, Pop Network debuted a docu-series called "Sing It On," which follows five collegiate a cappella groups. John Legend, who is a former college a cappella singer, serves as an executive producer.

Though Universal expects "Pitch Perfect 2" will have a stronger opening weekend than its predecessor, the studio has a more modest forecast of about $35 million.

However, Marvel tentpole "Avengers: Age of Ultron" could also potentially stay at No. 1.

Directed by Joss Whedon, "Age of Ultron" follows superheroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as they battle technological villain Ultron (James Spader). Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson play twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

The film, which cost $250 million to make, has been propelled by that star power as well as strong audience and critical response: It received a solid A rating from audience polling firm CinemaScore and has an 85% positive rating on critic site Rotten Tomatoes.

To date, it has made about $324.8 million in the U.S. and Canada, making its global total about $932 million.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

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