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'Evil Dead' could scare 'G.I. Joe' off No. 1 box-office spot

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"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" could be demonized by "Evil Dead" at the box office this weekend as the horror film aims to possess No. 1.

After debuting with $40.5 million, the action sequel will likely take in an additional $20 million during its second weekend in theaters, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

That will put the film in a tight race for the top spot against "Evil Dead," which is poised to start off with a solid sum of between $20 million and $25 million. The weekend's other new release, a 3-D version of the 2-decade-old "Jurassic Park," will likely open with a respectable $15 million.

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"Evil Dead" is the fourth installment in the horror franchise originated by filmmaker Sam Raimi in 1983. The new film is the first not to be directed by Raimi, who helmed the series' third entry, "Army of Darkness," two decades ago. Raimi did produce "Evil Dead," but the movie was written and directed by Uruguay native and Hollywood newcomer Fede Alvarez.

The sequel, which is generating the most interest among young males, has received particularly strong reviews for a horror film: On Thursday, the picture had notched a 76% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie is also opening abroad in 19 foreign markets this weekend, including Russia and Mexico.

Drawing on central plot points from Raimi's original "The Evil Dead," the new iteration follows four friends who hole up in a cabin in an attempt to help their buddy get off heroin. Sony Pictures' TriStar label and FilmDistrict partnered to acquire worldwide distribution rights to the $17-million picture from Ghost House Pictures in 2011.

Initially released in 1993, Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" was a blockbuster, grossing $914 million worldwide and spawning a franchise. Next summer, "Jurassic Park 4" is set to hit theaters 13 years after the release of the series' third installment.

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Based on Michael Crichton's novel, "Jurassic Park" follows a group of people dealing with the dangers of an amusement park full of cloned dinosaurs.

Universal Pictures spent about $10 million to convert the 20 year-old classic to 3-D -- a nine-month-long process that involved over 700 artists. The reformatted version is set to debut overseas this weekend in about half a dozen international locations, including Russia and Australia.

But a number of 3-D re-releases have had trouble at the box office in recent years. Walt Disney Studios saw its reformatted "The Lion King" gross almost $100 million two years ago, but other 3-D versions of the studio's animated films failed to become box-office hits.

Updated takes on "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" and "Titanic" fell far short of the success of the 3-D "Lion King" domestically, though "Titanic" -- previously unseen in most of China -- proved to be a big hit abroad, taking in $285 million.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight is opening Danny Boyle's art-heist thriller "Trance" in two theaters each in Los Angeles and New York. The $16-million production stars James McAvoy as a criminal who can't remember where he has hidden a stolen painting. 

Debuting in five theaters in the two cities is Sony Pictures Classics' "The Company You Keep," directed by and featuring Robert Redford, 76, along with Shia LaBeouf, 26. The movie stars the younger actor as an up-and-coming journalist trying to track down a 1960s anarchist who may be guilty of murder.

ALSO:

3-D isn't big draw 2nd time around

'Evil Dead': Raimi says director right for the job

'Evil Dead': Bruce Campbell, Fede Alvarez talk up 'very scary' remake

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amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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