Movie projector: ‘Schmucks,’ cats, dogs and Zac Efron will all open behind ‘Inception’

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Three new movies open this weekend, but their dreams of being No. 1 will likely be dashed by the unstoppable ‘Inception.’

The hit Christopher Nolan-directed drama is poised to top the box office charts for the third consecutive weekend, said people who have seen pre-release audience polling. That means it would beat the new Steve Carrell comedy ‘Dinner for Schmucks,’ the special effects-heavy kids movie ‘Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,’ and the Zac Efron drama ‘Charlie St. Cloud.’

If ‘Inception’ has another small ticket sales decline like the 32% drop it had last weekend, the film should collect very close to $30 million this weekend. That would bring its domestic total close to $200 million in just 17 days. As of Wednesday, the complex drama about dreams within dreams starring Leonardo DiCaprio had grossed $160.5 million in the U.S. and Canada.

‘Dinner for Schmucks,’ a long-in-the-works remake of a French play in which Carell stars as a buffoon taken to dinner by Paul Rudd to amuse his co-workers, should open to between $22 million and $25 million. That would be a decent start given that the film cost $69 million to make, though a studio spokesman noted that tax credits reduced that figure to $62.7 million. The budget was split between Paramount Pictures, which is distributing the movie, DreamWorks Studios, and Spyglass Entertainment.


Its opening will probably be in line with Carrell’s April comedy release ‘Date Night,’ which opened to $25.2 million. That film played very well for several weeks and ultimately grossed $98.5 million.

‘Dinner for Schmucks’ will benefit from being the only comedy in the market this weekend. But even if audiences like the Jay Roach-directed picture, which has gotten mixed reviews, as much as they did ‘Date Night,’ it faces another heavily promoted comedy next week in ‘The Other Guys,’ starring Will Ferrell.

‘Schmucks’ is generating the broadest interest of any of the new films opening this weekend. Though younger males are most excited about seeing the picture, it is also drawing interest from older men and women.

Families with young children, meanwhile, are the only moviegoers expected to turn out for ‘Revenge of Kitty Galore,’ a sequel to 2001’s original ‘Cats and Dogs.’ It will probably open a little below the $21.7-million start for the earlier film, representing a sizable drop in audience interest, given eight years of ticket price inflation and the fact that ‘Kitty Galore’ will play on premium-priced 3-D screens.

An opening in the high teens would be bad news for Warner and co-financier Village Roadshow, which spent a hefty $85 million to produce the movie, which stars digitally created canine and feline spies.

‘Charlie St. Cloud’ is likely to draw young female moviegoers who are fans of Efron’s. The supernatural tearjerker about a young man struggling to overcome the death of his little brother has been heavily promoted around Efron, whose face dominates the film’s posters and print advertising. It’s expected to open to between $12 million and $15 million, a soft but not terrible launch given that the movie cost Universal Pictures and its financing partner Relativity Media about $44 million to produce.

Last weekend’s Angelina Jolie action thriller ‘Salt’ will probably compete for second place with ‘Schmucks’ and ‘Cats and Dogs.’ It’s expected to decline from its $36 million opening to a little more than $20 million on its second weekend.

--Ben Fritz

Top photo: Steve Carrell in ‘Dinner for Schmucks.’ Credit: Paramount Pictures