Movie Projector: ‘Real Steel’ to crush ‘Ides of March’

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George Clooney will suffer a blow from an imposing robot at the box office this weekend.


‘Real Steel,’ a PG-13 action film starring Hugh Jackman, is expected to collect around $30 million in U.S. ticket sales upon its debut, according to several people who have seen prerelease audience surveys. Walt Disney Pictures and DreamWorks, however, are expecting a softer opening of between $23 and $25 million. Either way, that should be enough to crush the other new film in wide release, the Clooney-directed political drama ‘The Ides of March,’ which also stars the actor and likely will gross around $11 million.

Set in a futuristic world where robot boxing has become a popular sport, ‘Real Steel’ has been marketed largely as an exciting sci-fi film despite the fact that its plot also centers around a troubled father-son relationship. The Shawn Levy-directed picture is based on a 1956 short story called ‘Steel,’ which was turned into an episode of the ‘Twilight Zone’ television series.

The film was produced by DreamWorks for about $110 million and is being distributed worldwide by Disney. This weekend, the movie -- which so far has earned middling reviews -- also opens in Russia and Australia, the latter being the country from which Jackman hails.

‘The Ides of March’ costars Ryan Gosling as an ambitious political operative whose belief in a liberal presidential candidate (Clooney) is tested in the midst of a critical Iowa primary. Adapted from Beau Willimon’s off-Broadway play ‘Farragut North,’ the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August and has since received solid critical notices.

The movie was financed by Cross Creek Pictures for about $12.5 million and is being marketed and distributed in North America by Sony Pictures. Clooney and his partner Grant Heslov’s company Smokehouse Pictures produced the movie, the first to be released through a two-year deal with Sony that began in June 2009.

Sony is expecting the film to perform similarly to the 2007 drama ‘Michael Clayton,’ starring Clooney as an attorney trying to redeem himself. That picture opened to $10.4 million in wide release and ultimately grossed $93 million worldwide.

In limited release, Variance Films is debuting the Jackie Chan historical drama ‘1911’ in 31 theaters this weekend. The movie, also co-directed by the Hong Kong action icon, opened in China last month behind two American films, ‘Sanctum’ and ‘Drive Angry 3-D.’

Meanwhile, ‘The Way,’ a film directed, written by and starring Emilio Estevez and his father Martin Sheen, is debuting in 33 theaters. The movie is about a father who embarks on a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago to honor his late son and is being distributed by the Producers Distribution Agency, founded last year by John Sloss’ Cinetic Media.

[For the record, 1:54 p.m., Oct. 6: An earlier version of this post did not contain the opinion of Disney and DreamWorks on the opening of ‘Real Steel.’]


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-- Amy Kaufman