WB's superhero pic points to big weekend

With superpowers derived from a glowing green ring, Warner Bros. is hoping that “Green Lantern” will light up the box office as a hot new property from the DC universe.

The comicbook actioner, which launches today at 3,816 locations, including 2,711 3D runs, is likely to tally $55 million-$60 million, according to most B.O. observers. But Warners said high pre-weekend audience awareness could boost the total higher.

Less optimistically, 20th Century Fox said it expects Jim Carrey family pic “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” bowing at 3,338 locations, to debut at around $10 million. Such a number would be a considerable disappointmenta for Fox, and down even from the studio’s mid-teens projections made earlier this week. Other studios say the film could do better.

Even if “Green Lantern” hits its mark, this weekend’s overall box office tally will be no match for the same frame last year, when “Toy Story 3″ debuted at a whopping $110 million.

Looking to maintain healthy vitals at the specialty B.O., Fox Searchlight launches Sundance teen comedy “The Art of Getting By” at 610 Stateside engagements. Also, Sony Pictures Classics expands “Midnight in Paris” — the B.O.’s best indie performer lately with $14 million — to a total 1,038 locations. That’s the widest run ever for a Woody Allen pic (“Anything Else” played at 1,033 in 2003).

“Green Lantern” is Warner’s second summer release following the record-setting Memorial Day perf of “The Hangover Part II.”

Overseas, the studio chose to delay its rollout of “Green Lantern” to avoid tangling with earlier summer tentpoles like “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Latter pic just crossed the $700 million mark internationally, and both “Kung Fu Panda 2″ and “Hangover II” are also collecting boffo coin overseas. “Green Lantern” will go day-and-date in just a few major markets, such as Russia, where 3D pics play strongly.

Despite tepid reviews for “Green Lantern,” the target comicbook fan aud is showing high interest in the movie, which should dominate Stateside B.O. both in 2D and 3D. Pic, budgeted at a reported $200 million (including the cost of 3D conversion) marks the first 3D release since Disney’s “On Stranger Tides” stalled at 3D wickets, earning the lowest 3D share of a nonfamily film since “Avatar,” with just 37% of its opening from 3D, excluding Imax.

B.O. pundits are comparing pre-audience awareness for “Green Lantern” to that of another potential comicbook franchise starter, “Thor,” which had 60% of its opening take from 3D. (“Green Lantern” doesn’t have Imax screens, so a 3D share north of 50% is more likely.)

Pic’s appeal to auds under 25 should help its chances in 3D, but also in 2D, which may put a damper on Paramount’s hopes of broadening appeal for “Super 8″ to moviegoers under 25. Last weekend, “Super 8″ collected an overwhelming 71% of its opening $35.5 million gross from over-25 auds. “Super 8″ has cumed $44.7 million.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “Penguins,” which reportedly cost around $55 million, will likely play best to families, helped by familiarity with the 1938 book by Richard and Florence Atwater. Tracking for family-skewing pics is notoriously tricky, and the film could exceed the studio’s modest expectations. (“Penguins” screened well for exhibs, according to insiders.)

Fox, however, said general audience interest doesn’t suggest a big opening; Carrey’s biggest supporters aren’t typically families.

Among the frame’s top holdovers, Fox’s “X-Men: First Class” enters its third weekend after a solid 55% soph-sesh hold. “First Class” has cumed $106 million domestically through Wednesday.

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