'Magic Mike,' 'Ted' enter the fray

The weekend’s domestic box office may look like a menage a trois — but “Magic Mike” won’t have the stamina to keep up with Universal’s R-rated comedy “Ted” and Disney-Pixar’s second-frame holdover “Brave,” both of which are projected to land in the mid-to-high $30 million range.

Friday’s girls-night outings should thrust Warner Bros.’ R-rated male stripper pic into the spotlight early on: the film easily led advanced ticket sales on Thursday, with midnight sales reaching $440,000 by late morning. But bizzers anticipate Steven Soderbergh’s pic to be heavily front-loaded, dropping on Saturday because of limited couples interest and yielding a projected three-day gross in the mid-to-high teens or low-$20 millions.

“Brave” — if it drops 45% from the pic’s $66.3 million debut last weekend — would earn around $36 million through Sunday. Pic has done well during mid-weeks, with $91 million so far domestically.

Also opening wide this weekend, Lionsgate’s “Madea’s Witness Protection” — the first summer bow for multi-hyphenate Tyler Perry — is tracking similarly to “Magic Mike.” Disney-DreamWorks’ family dramedy “People Like Us,” meanwhile, isn’t expected to hit double digits.

Overseas B.O. will be buoyed by a couple of early bows: “The Amazing Spider-Man” launched in markets including Germany, India, Japan and South Korea, while Fox’s “Ice Age: Continental Drift” bows two weeks before the U.S. in 35 international territories.

Domestic totals will pale in comparison to last year, when “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” grossed nearly $98 million during its first three-day weekend; Paramount debuted the pic on a Wednesday.

Audience heat for “Ted” has been building steadily prior to the film’s release, especially among under-25 women. The most optimistic observers cite female interest as the main reason for expectations in the $40 millions, though the pic’s R rating could deflate those predictions slightly. Last summer, Sony’s “Bad Teacher” opened the weekend before with $31 million.

Still, R-rated comedies can benefit from long legs: consider “Bridesmaids,” which wound up cuming $169 million domestically.

“Ted,” which toplines a foul-mouthed CGI teddy bear (voiced by writer-director Seth MacFarlane) alongside Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, cost $50 million according to the studio, though sources close to the project peg it higher. MRC financed the film, with Relativity Media also investing.

Regardless of the cost, “Ted” likely will rep a solid investment, given its potential theatrical legs and strong interest for comedies on VOD and other digital platforms.

Financial risk for “Magic Mike,” which cost about $10 million, is much lower. Pic could become the summer’s biggest word-of-mouth beneficiary, though mid-week grosses stand to see the largest boost, based on adult female moviegoing habits.

Based partially on Channing Tatum’s real-life experience as a stripper, “Magic Mike” co-stars Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer. Warners marketed the film, in part, to gay audiences, going so far as to sponsor a “Magic Mike”-themed float in the L.A. Pride parade.

Perry’s “Witness Protection,” meanwhile, could overperform, as the Madea character is the helmer’s most-consistent performing franchise. Then again, there aren’t any summer comparisons for “Protection” among Perry’s past pics.

“People Like Us,” which stars Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, should play best throughout the Midwest, facing off against the more adult-targeted “Ted” and “Magic Mike.” The PG-13-rated DreamWorks film has low financial exposure, according to the studio.

Bowing Wednesday at four locations, Fox Searchlight’s festival favorite “Beasts of the Southern Wild” scored $27,175 during opening day for a per-screen average of $6,794. Pic is expected to play well with its coastal opening audience before expanding over Fourth of July weekend and throughout the rest of the summer.

That’s been the strategy for Focus Features’ “Moonrise Kingdom,” which broadens today to 854 locations, up from 395, with a fast-growing domestic cume of $13 million.

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