WB film takes on 'Iron Man,' 'Vegas,' 'Honor'

Warner Bros. tentpole “Speed Racer” gets the green light this weekend but may very well finish behind the second week of “Iron Man.”

Wachowski Brothers-helmed “Speed Racer,” which bows at 3,606 screens, has been tracking primarily with kids and families. Awareness has been on the rise, but Warner Bros. is aiming for a relatively modest gross in the low 30s.

That should put it behind “Iron Man,” which after its boffo $98.6 million bow — $102 million including Thursday-night shows — could take a sizable 50%-plus drop and still gross in the 40s in its second frame. As of Wednesday, Marvel and Paramount’s superhero pic had grossed $121.3 million.

The “Iron Man”-”Speed Racer” faceoff will also play out overseas. “Iron Man” heads into its second foreign frame with more than $120 million banked, while Warner goes day-and-date with “Speed Racer” in about half the international markets.

Fox, meanwhile, is counterprogramming with “What Happens in Vegas.” Cameron Diaz-Ashton Kutcher starrer opens at 3,215 theaters and is looking to appeal mainly to women and young auds in the mood for a comedy. A perf along the lines of last weekend’s “Made of Honor,” which opened to $14.7 million, appears likely.

While WB was probably hoping to come into the weekend with bigger expectations for its $100 million-plus adaptation of the classic cartoon, the studio still expects “Speed Racer” to be a solid performer when foreign grosses, licensing and DVDs come together.

“We’ve had a nice bump in the tracking, so we’ve got momentum going into the weekend,” noted WB domestic distribution topper Dan Fellman. “We’re also going to have a very strong ancillary component on the film.”

Pic’s two-hour-plus running time, somewhat long for a family film, could prove a bit of a drag on the gross.

Also going wide domestically this weekend is David Mamet’s actioner “Redbelt,” which Sony Pictures Classics is expanding to 1,379 playdates.

In limited release, Paramount Vantage is expanding “Son of Rambow” from five to 36 locations.

Roadside Attractions bows British import “Before the Rains” and fantasy pic “The Fall” at nine theaters each in Gotham and L.A.

ThinkFilm opens vigilante pic “Noise,” starring Tim Robbins, at two playdates in New York, and Ellen Page starrer “The Tracey Fragments” at a single location.

On the foreign front, “Iron Man” is likely to lead via solid holdover biz — possibly hitting $50 million — following its $98 million international launch last weekend. Pic’s in every major market except Japan and China, with the U.K. leading the way with $16 million as of Wednesday.

“Speed Racer” is driving into 5,400 locations in 30 markets, including such key foreign territories as Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain and the U.K. Rival execs expect the family-friendly project to open in the same range as the domestic launch and then rack up significantly better numbers internationally as it goes deeper into its run.

Recent family-oriented fare, ranging from “The Golden Compass” to “Horton Hears a Who!,” has generated respectable numbers out of the foreign markets. The remaining markets, including France, Japan, Belgium, Scandinavia and Australia, will be rolling out over the next two months.

Fox is also going the counterprogramming route in offshore multiplexes with “What Happens in Vegas,” launching the pic day-and-date in three dozen markets and 4,000 locations. “Vegas” is headed into all of Europe and most of the Asia/Pacific region except India, Japan and South Korea.

Romantic comedies tend to generate respectable rather than blockbuster totals overseas. “Knocked Up,” for example, scored $70 million outside the U.S.

Hot weather across northern Europe may depress moviegoing somewhat in those markets. Other launches include “The Bucket List” in Japan, “Drillbit Taylor” in France and “Stop-Loss” in France and Spain.

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