Movie Projector: ‘Dragon’ will breathe fire again

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Spring break is a quickly fading memory and summer vacation still seems far away. If it feels like the doldrums at your house, movie theater owners share your despair.

The year’s first presumed blockbuster — Paramount Pictures’ and Marvel Entertainment’s “Iron Man 2” — doesn’t come to town for two more weeks, and it’s entirely likely that none of the new movies in wide release this weekend, including the romantic comedy ‘The Back-Up Plan’ with Jennifer Lopez, will make much of a splash, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.


Indeed, the likely winner at the box office could be DreamWorks Animation’s and Paramount’s holdover ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ which could gross about $14 million for the weekend. It should narrowly surpass another holdover, the Lionsgate action film “Kick-Ass,” and the debut of ‘The Back-Up Plan.’

Even though the 3-D ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ opened below expectations March 26, the movie about a misfit boy and his oversized pet has held up very strongly, selling $161.8 million in tickets so far in the U.S. and Canada.

‘Kick-Ass,’ the R-rated comic book adaptation, not only narrowly won a close duel with “How to Train Your Dragon” last weekend (with a gross of $19.8 million) but also has been No. 1 film during the last week in the U.S. and Canada, where it has done solid if unremarkable business — between $1.3 million and $1.6 million.

Given that momentum, “Kick-Ass” could gross about $12 million this weekend, which puts it right in the middle of the fight for the No. 2 spot.

Some prognosticators say the initial weekend for CBS Films’ “The Back Up-Plan” might be as abysmal as that of the young studio’s first feature (January’s “Extraordinary Measures” with Harrison Ford, which barely surpassed $12 million in its entire theatrical run, after opening to $6 million). But audience surveys suggest the $35-million budgeted ‘Back-Up Plan’ should do much better than ‘Extraordinary Measures,’ and gross about $12 million in its debut weekend.

Although most men are likely to steer clear of the movie about a single woman who finds true love just as she is artificially inseminated, “The Back-Up Plan” is drawing reasonably good interest from women. An unexpected number of younger girls are also inclined to see the PG-13 film. Even hit romantic comedies are not always well-reviewed, but the early notices for “The Back-Up Plan” have been harsh. That could dent the turnout of older moviegoers, who tend to pay more attention to critics.

Warner Bros. is releasing “The Losers,” a $25-million DC comic book adaptation that was financed by producer Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment. The movie, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans and Zoe Saldana, is strongest among 20-something men, but it’s not on everybody’s radar and may lose ticket sales to “Kick-Ass.” An opening around $10 million looks possible. If the fanboy reaction is enthusiastic (early reviews are mixed but mostly favorable), the weekend gross could be higher.

Disney is introducing its environmental documentary “Oceans.” Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, the exceptionally well-reviewed movie was timed to premiere on Thursday’s 40th annual Earth Day. A year ago, the studio tried the same strategy with “Earth,” which opened to $8.8 million and ultimately grossed more than $32 million. “Oceans” should have a slightly smaller opening — about $5 million, not counting its Thursday grosses.

-- John Horn