'Nemo' in 3D, 'Resident Evil' will refuel box office

Families and fanboys will fuel a much-needed resurgence at the domestic box office this weekend as Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” 3D re-release looks to hit $30 million-plus, while Sony-Screen Gems’ “Resident Evil: Retribution” is expected to gross $23 million-$26 million.

Rocky Mountain Pictures, which currently has a full plate with documentary “2016: Obama’s America” playing at 1,900 theaters, adds religious pic “The Last Ounce of Courage” at more than 1,400. Pic centers on the son of a fallen soldier trying to reconnect with his grandfather.

In limited release, the Weinstein Co. bows Paul Thomas Anderson’s 70mm fest favorite “The Master” at five locations in New York and L.A. (see separate story).

Last weekend Stateside B.O. dropped to its lowest point in about a decade, allowing Lions-gate’s “The Possession” to claim the top spot for its second straight frame with a paltry $9.3 million.

This weekend’s diverse roster should deliver a far more robust frame, based on early tracking.

“Nemo” in 3D is registering well with families and adults, while “Retribution” bolsters usual domestic fanboy interest with strong overseas tracking, particularly in Asia. Sony launches its fifth “Resident Evil” installment in 50 day-and-date territories, including Australia, Brazil, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan.

“Nemo” bows this weekend in only a handful of international territories, including Japan and Russia.

At the domestic B.O. there’s some unpredictability hinging primarily on “Nemo’s” three-day prospects. Disney has slightly more modest expectations for the reissue, starting in the high-$20 millions. But the Mouse’s 3D “Lion King,” which opened this time last year with $30.2 million, gives reason for optimism.

The B.O. upside for 3D “Nemo” will depend, in part, on a sense of nostalgia for the original. But Disney’s marketing for its 3D redos also centers on introducing the property to a new generations of kids.

“Nemo” earned $340 million during its initial 2003 theatrical run; “The Lion King” grossed $313 million domestically in 1994. Disney’s other recent 3D re-release, “Beauty and the Beast,” tallied $17.8 million during its opening weekend in January, but that pic lacks the cult popularity of “Nemo” or “Lion King.”

At 2,904 locations, “Nemo” marks the widest berth for a Disney 3D reissue. “Beast” bowed at 2,625, “Lion King” 2,330. The Mouse’s only other 3D reissue of a Pixar property — the “Toy Story” double bill — made it to 1,752 locations at its widest count in 2009, grossing $30.7 million domestically.

The cost to convert 3D “Nemo” rings in at just under $5 million. That’s about half of what Disney paid for its 3D hand-drawn toons.

Screen Gems’ “Retribution,” which cost $65 million to produce, has 3,012 debut Stateside locations, the majority in 3D. Pic is the franchise’s second 3D installment, after 2010’s “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” which turned in the series’ best Stateside opening at $26.7 million.

A trio of pics bow at north of 100 locations, including Roadside Attractions’ Sundance thriller “Arbitrage,” starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon, which also bows on VOD, and Millennium Entertainment’s Nicolas Cage actioner “Stolen.” Bollywood pic “Barfi!” bows via UTV at 132 domestic engagements.

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