Newcomers look to dent ‘Transformers’ at B.O.

'Horrible Bosses,' 'Zookeeper' enter post-holiday frame

The domestic box office takes a break from tentpoles and sequels this weekend, though openers “Horrible Bosses” and “Zookeeper” aren’t likely to unseat Paramount’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” from the top spot.

Last weekend, “Dark” debuted with a four-day domestic total of $115.9 million; through Wednesday the film had cumed $485.4 million worldwide.

B.O. pundits say “Dark” could drop 50%-60% this weekend, meaning it would land in the high-30s to low-40s range through Sunday, based on the $97 million it collected over three days in its opening frame.

Even the lowest projection would put “Dark” well ahead of either new entry: “Bosses,” from Warner and New Line, is expected to open at about $20 million, while Sony’s Kevin James starrer “Zookeeper” should do similar biz depending on how well families respond.

Tracking has been somewhat tricky lately and is more difficult this time because the new titles are sandwiched by two major tentpoles, “Dark” and “Harry Potter.”

Today’s perf will be telling for R-rated laffer “Horrible Bosses,” since under-25 males boost opening-day figures. If the pic reaches $10 million today, Warner said a typical 15% Friday-Saturday drop would likely lead to $25 million through Sunday.

Meanwhile, “Zookeeper” could be affected by largely negative reviews, though affection for James and families searchingfor fresh entertainment could counteract critical reception.

Overall weekend-to-weekend totals likely won’t improve on last year, when Universal’s “Despicable Me” debuted at $56.4 million and Summit’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” dropped 51% in its soph sesh with $31.7 million.

Par’s “Dark of the Moon” should have another winning weekend at the international B.O. Last weekend, it debuted overseas with $219 million through Sunday — a studio best — and will go unchallenged in its second outing with few new entries. “Zookeeper” debuts in only a handful of territories, including Mexico and Germany.

Sony expects solid overseas play time for “Zookeeper,” which will help recoup the film’s $80 million pricetag.

Domestically, pic opens at 3,482 locations and is drawing most attention from women over 25.

That demo and younger men typically respond best to James pics. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” became a box office phenom in 2009, opening to $31.8 million for a Stateside cume north of $146 million. Both pics received PG ratings.

“Horrible Bosses” should appeal mostly to a 17-25 male demo. Pic, budgeted at around $40 million, stars Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as disgruntled employees plotting to kill their respective bosses, played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell.

With several R-rated comedies already playing, including “Bridesmaids,” “The Hangover Part II” and “Bad Teacher,” it remains to be seen whether auds are in the mood for more laffs.

At the specialty B.O., Sony Pictures Classics launches Sundance music docu “Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” at two locations each in New York and L.A.

A pair of other Sundance pickups, Roadside Attractions docu “Project Nim” and IFC’s “The Ledge,” open in limited release, “Nim” at four locations, “The Ledge” two.

In its eighth frame, SPC looks to continue boffo success for 2011’s top specialty player, “Midnight in Paris.” Domestic cume is $34.6 million.

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