"The Croods" could club its way to box-office success this weekend, as the animated caveman movie looks certain to end up No. 1.
The 3-D DreamWorks Animation film is likely to open with a solid $40 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The weekend's other big debut, the special-effects-heavy White House action-thriller "Olympus Has Fallen," will trail behind with a so-so $20 million.
Meanwhile, two lower-budget pictures -- the Tina Fey comedy "Admission" and the R-rated party flick "Spring Breakers -- are set to launch with less than $10 million apiece.
"The Croods," which cost roughly $135 million to produce, is a comedy-adventure about a cave family, with characters voiced by Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds. The movie has received excellent reviews so far: On Thursday morning, the picture had notched a 76% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film is the first DreamWorks Animation movie to be released by 20th Century Fox, with which DreamWorks Animation began a five-year distribution deal at the start of the year. For the last six years, Paramount Pictures had distributed the studio's animated films.
The performance of "The Croods" will be closely monitored by Wall Street investors, given the failure of DreamWorks Animation's last film, "Rise of the Guardians." The company said in February that it would be forced to take an $87-million write-down on the 2012 holiday film, which collected a disappointing $300 million worldwide.
"Olympus Has Fallen," which stars Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman, follows a former Secret Service agent as he single-handedly fights off terrorists who have taken over the White House. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, the R-rated action movie is so far generating the most interest among older men.
Financed by Avi Lerner's Millennium Entertainment, the roughly $70-million picture cost no money for U.S. distributor FilmDistrict to acquire, though the company has made a substantial marketing commitment.
The film is the first of two White House-set action films to hit theaters this year. In June, Roland Emmerich's "White House Down" -- also about a hero attempting to save the president from a terrorist attack -- will be released by Sony Pictures. So far, "Olympus Has Fallen" has not earned outstanding critical notices, and will also have to contend with the action film "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" at the box office starting next week.
"Admission" could be the first box-office bomb for "Saturday Night Live" alum Tina Fey. The comedienne starred opposite Amy Poehler in 2008's "Baby Mama" and Steve Carell in 2010's "Date Night" -- each of which sold a healthy number of tickets.
In her latest film, Fey appears with Paul Rudd as an uptight Princeton University admissions officer whose life takes a turn when she meets the director of an alternative high school. The movie, which has gotten the worst reviews of any of the weekend's new releases, was financed by Universal Pictures' Focus Features label for roughly $13 million.
Meanwhile, filmmaker Harmony Korine's art house hit "Spring Breakers" will expand to 1,000 theaters this weekend. Playing in just three locations last weekend, the film about four debauched college girls on vacation in Florida scored the best per-screen average of any movie in limited release so far this year.