Movie projector: Five new movies open, but ‘Expendables’ may kick butt again


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Hollywood is releasing a family comedy, a romantic comedy, a teen-targeted spoof, a cheesy 3-D thriller, and an African American-targeted comedy this weekend. But instead of heading for the new releases, moviegoers may just stick with the same old action heroes.

‘The Expendables,’ directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone, has the best chance to be No. 1 for the second weekend in a row, said people who have seen surveys of potential moviegoers. The aging-mercenaries tale should sell between $15 million and $17 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada, down a little more than half from its strong opening weekend. Through Wednesday it has grossed a total of $45.7 million.


The family movie ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ has a shot at topping ‘Expendables,’ but is more likely to fall just short and open to a little less than $15 million.

The remaining lineup -- ‘Lottery Ticket,’ ‘Vampires Suck,’ ‘Piranha 3D,’ and ‘The Switch’ -- are all likely to make even less of a splash, with debuts ranging from $7 million to $13 million apiece. In other words, Hollywood’s summer blockbuster season is now officially over, and studios are now releasing movies with lower commercial potential in the dog days of August.

As with the first ‘Nanny McPhee’ in 2006, which was also written by and starred Emma Thompson, the sequel was produced with an eye toward earning most of its money overseas. Made for about $35 million by Universal Pictures and Relativity Media, ‘Nanny McPhee Returns’ started playing in foreign countries in March. It has already grossed a total of $62.6 million internationally, with $23.6 million of that coming from Great Britain and Ireland.

The film’s domestic reception also seems on track to mirror the first ‘Nanny McPhee,’ which opened to $14.5 million and ended up with $47.1 million in the U.S. and Canada. Even if the box office revenue for ‘Returns’ is identical to its predecessor, that will represent a modest decline in audience interest due to rising average ticket prices. ‘Vampires Suck’ is the latest parody from the makers of ‘Epic Movie,’ ‘Meet the Spartans’ and ‘Disaster Movie,’ whose mocking eye has this time turned to the ‘Twilight’ series. As a result, interest is strongest among young women.

Produced by Regency Enterprises and distributed by 20th Century Fox, ‘Vampires Suck’ hit theaters Wednesday and grossed $4 million.

Weekend expectations aren’t high for the low budget comedy, however. It appears likely to do better than 2008’s ‘Disaster Movie,’ which opened to $5.8 million, but lower than that same year’s ‘Meet the Spartans’ and 2007’s ‘Epic Movie,’ which debuted to $18.5 million and $18.6 million, respectively. It should gross a little less than $10 million over the weekend, giving it a five-day total of $12 million to $15 million.


‘Lottery Ticket,’ produced by Alcon Entertainment for $17 million and released by Warner Bros., has a cast of well-known African American actors including Bow Wow, Ice Cube, Loretta Devine and Terry Crews. Like most recent films aimed at black moviegoers that aren’t made by Tyler Perry, however, the comedy about a young man who must sit on a winning lottery ticket over a long holiday weekend appears to have limited box office potential and will likely open to around $10 million.

That’s the same box office territory expected for ‘Piranha 3D,’ a cheeseball thriller with a self-explanatory title that marks the first movie released nationwide by The Weinstein Co. since January’s ‘Youth in Revolt.’ The recently refinanced independent studio originally planned to release ‘Piranha’ in April through its Dimension Films genre label but pushed back the release date as it was going through a cash crunch.

But despite the boost that surcharges on 3-D tickets will provide, ‘Piranha’ won’t have too much bite, as it heads towards an opening of about $10 million that will be driven by young moviegoers.

Romantic comedy ‘The Switch,’ starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman, will likely struggle to get to even the $10 million mark. Pre-release surveys signal that it will perform less like Aniston’s March romantic comedy ‘The Bounty Hunter,’ which started with $20.7 million, and more like last September’s ‘Love Happens,’ which opened to a weak $8 million. As with most romantic comedies, interest is strongest among women.

‘The Switch’ was produced by Miramax Films but is being released by its parent company Walt Disney Studios, as Miramax was shut down earlier this year and its library and brand name are being sold to a group of investors led by Ron Tutor.

The Julia Roberts romantic drama ‘Eat Pray Love’ will likely land in the middle of the pack, garnering between $10 million to $15 million following its $23.6 million debut last week.


Also launching this weekend at two theaters in Los Angeles and two in New York is the documentary ‘The Tillman Story,’ about the controversial death of Pat Tillman, the football-player- turned-soldier who died in Afghanistan.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Emma Thompson in ‘Nanny McPhee Returns.’ Credit: Liam Daniel / Universal Pictures. Second photo: Charlie Weber in ‘Vampires Suck.’ Credit: 20th Century Fox. Bottom photo: Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston in ‘The Switch.’ Credit: Baster Productions.