Zach Synder pic should receive healthy competition from Fox sequel

Box office pundits are expecting another solid — but not spectacular — weekend at the domestic B.O. as a pair of wide releases, Warner Bros.’ “Sucker Punch” and 20th Century Fox’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules,” show good pre-release tracking with target demos.

“Sucker Punch,” launching at 3,033 locations, including 229 Imax runs, should play best with hormone-driven males under 25, while Fox’s “Diary” sequel at 3,167 will attract mostly families.

“Sucker Punch” has the edge in a close race, according to rival studios. That depends, however, on how well the Zack Snyder-helmed pic kicks off Friday with fan-

boys. “Diary,” which Fox is expecting to debut in the mid-to-high teens, will see a bigger uptick on Saturday driven by matinee showings, which means “Sucker Punch” needs to rely on a substantial Friday head start.

Warners is predicting a mid-20s domestic bow for “Sucker,” with a fairly expansive overseas rollout. Pic launches day and date in markets including Brazil, Italy, Mexico and Spain.

Last weekend, the overseas crown went to Sony’s “Battle: Los Angeles,” with Paramount’s “Rango” in second place. “Battle’s” foreign totals stand at $61 million through Sunday, while “Rango” has cumed $73 million internationally.

The Weinstein Co.’s Middle East-conflict drama “Miral,” from director Julian Schnabel and toplining Freida Pinto, launches at four Stateside locations.

Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight’s “Win Win” and Focus Features’ “Jane Eyre” expand after earning strong aud reactions in previous frames. In its soph sesh, “Win Win” broadens to 23 locations with a cume of $193,022, while “Eyre” has its first major U.S. push this weekend, expanding to 90. Period pic has tallied $864,191 after three weeks.

According to online ticketing service Fandango, “Sucker Punch” and “Diary,” budgeted at a modest $18 million, ran neck and neck in Thursday’s advanced ticket sales; both films had been tracking similarly with the site’s sales all week.

Fox’s first “Diary” opened one weekend earlier in 2010 with $22 million, and went on to cume $64 million domestically. Family-targeted sequels — except toons, which tend to play more broadly — typically open to less B.O. than their predecessors.

“Diary,” budgeted at a modest $18 million, toplines original wimpy kid, Zachary Gordon, alongside the character’s brother Rodrick, played by Devon Bostick. Pic is the second installment in Jeff Kinney’s popular kid book series.

“Diary” faces its toughest competition from toon “Rango,” which is still showing strong audience interest going into its fourth weekend. Last weekend, “Rango” dropped just 33%, but the toon should fall more steeply this weekend; cume is more than $95 million.

“Sucker Punch,” which sources tell Variety cost in the mid-$70 millions to make, will appeal largely to a male 17-34 crowd drawn to the film’s femme cast, led by Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone.

Rated PG-13, Snyder’s latest eye candy should also attract auds interested in the pic’s visual effects. Warners has showcased the film as a vfx-driven pic, with positive word of mouth already building around the visuals despite wide critical scorn for the story. Pic’s Imax presentation will be most popular with fanboys.

Neither Snyder’s most recent pic, family toon “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole,” which bowed at $16 million, nor his earlier “Watchmen,” with a $55 million opening, work as comparisons for “Sucker Punch,” so weekend perf could be a surprise.

Entering its second frame, Relativity Media’s champ of last weekend, “Limitless,” is expected to fall around 50%, which would put it near $10 million for the weekend. Pic tallied $24 million through Wednesday.

Lionsgate’s “The Lincoln Lawyer” and Universal’s “Paul” also look to display some resilience in their soph sesh. “Lincoln Lawyer” has cumed almost $17 million; “Paul,” $16 million.

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