Pic faces challenge from 'Avengers' despite date change

When Paramount decided to move “The Dictator” from May 11 — the same weekend as “Dark Shadows” — to the following Wednesday, the studio had no idea “The Avengers” would still be dominating at multiplexes as an all-audience crowpleaser.

The last-minute date change for “Dictator” was meant to distance the Sacha Baron Cohen laffer from Warner Bros.’ Tim Burton-Johnny Depp “Dark” comedy. But similar to the weekend before, when “Avengers” took a bite out of “Dark Shadows” (that pic opened to a disappointing $29 million), the Disney-Marvel superhero pic gobbled up ticket sales in the most recent frame, too.

“Dictator,” in turn, bowed to lower expectations, with $24.5 million in its opening five days.

The film needs to make up for its soft domestic start with overseas coin, by no means a sure thing for a comedy. The pic, which cost $65 million (not including a costly marketing campaign), bowed to $30.9 million from 29 international markets — a 26% better start than “Borat,” and 50% higher than “Bridesmaids” from the same territories.

Still, it’s uncertain whether “Dictator” can garner the kind of worldwide buzz either of those pics did. Domestically, the film received a poor C CinemaScore rating; the average consensus from moviegoers on Rottentomatoes.com was better, though.

“Dictator” played mostly to men under 25, and if the film doesn’t broaden out demographically, Sony’s similarly-targeted “Men in Black 3″ will likely muffle the Par pic’s laughter.

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