Movie Projector: ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ will trample ‘Smurfs’

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The costly ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ is heading into a crowded gunfight at the box office this weekend.

The science-fiction western, which had a budget of about $163 million, probably will lasso in $40 million to $50 million in ticket sales upon its debut, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. That’s far more than either of the weekend’s other two new releases. The 3-D live-action/computer animated hybrid ‘The Smurfs’ is expected to collect a decent $30 million, while the adult comedy ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love,’ starring Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, will probably open to a modest $15 million.

But ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ will also face competition from films released earlier this month. Last weekend’s No. 1 movie, ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ could rake in an additional $30 million, and people will be watching to see how well ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2' holds up after the film’s ticket sales dropped a staggering 72% to $47 million last weekend following its record-breaking $169 million debut.

Numerous studios have a vested interest in the box-office performance of ‘Cowboys & Aliens.’ The movie was financed by Universal Pictures, DreamWorks SKG and Relativity Media, and Paramount Pictures is releasing it overseas.


Unlike most of this summer’s big movies, ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ is based on a little-known graphic novel rather than a well-known property. Still, the film -- about alien invasion in the 19th century Old West -- boasts A-list if not-quite-young stars in Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. It was also directed by ‘Iron Man’s’ Jon Favreau, who has done extensive promotion, and executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

Because the film has not been adapted from a popular brand, Universal is hoping it performs at least as well as ‘Super 8,’ one of the only movies with an original concept to be released this summer. In June, that J.J. Abrams-directed film opened to $35.5 million and has since grossed $181.2 million worldwide.

Meanwhile, Sony is hoping that “The Smurfs’ will benefit from its recognizable title. The tiny blue creatures were originally conceived by a Belgian comic book artist in 1958 but became popular in the U.S. in the 1980s thanks to a Saturday morning cartoon program.

To introduce younger generations to the animated characters, Sony – which spent $110 million to produce the PG-rated film – is teaming with up a number of marketing partners to promote the film. Domestically, Smurfs will appear on McDonald’s Happy Meals, and Post is releasing a special blue-and-white cereal box to celebrate the movie’s release.

Overseas -- where the film will open this weekend in eight foreign markets, including India and Spain -- some Starwood Hotels locations are giving young children a free stay, food and beverage if they are accompanied by their parents.

Sony is trying to follow in the path of Fox’s hugely successful “Alvin and the Chipmunks” series. Those movies, based on the animated musical trio created in 1958, each grossed over $350 million dollars worldwide. However last year’s similar “Yogi Bear” brought in a less impressive $202 million, and last summer’s “Marmaduke” was a flop with only $84 million.

Warner Bros.’ adult comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” meanwhile, is expected to open to a modest $15 million. The film -- which stars Ryan Gosling as a playboy trying to teach a middle-aged man played by Steve Carell how to get women -- cost about $45 million to make.

There are also several films coming out in limited release this weekend, including Sony’s Screen Gems’ ‘Attack the Block,’ which will open in eight theaters. The film, in which a street kids wage a low-tech battle against apelike alien invaders, will play in Los Angeles and in other cities including Austin and Seattle.

National Geographic’s documentary ‘Life in a Day’ will open in 11 theaters. The movie, which is compiled entirely from user-submitted YouTube clips, will be released in six cities, including L.A.

Also opening on a few screens is ‘The Devil’s Double,’ a thriller about Saddam Hussein’s son Uday and the man who is his body double. The film starring Dominic Cooper in dual roles will play in two theaters in L.A. and three in New York.


Hero Complex coverage of ‘Cowboys and Aliens’

A Carell-Gosling bromance in ‘Crazy Stupid Love’

Box office: ‘Captain America’ strong arms ‘Harry Potter’

-- Amy Kaufman

Top photo: Harrison Ford stars in ‘Cowboys & Aliens.’ Credit: Universal

Also opening this weekend is