Box Office Revs Up with 'Need

Racing pic expected to win the weekend in the mid-$20 million range

While expectations for Disney-DreamWorks’ racer “Need for Speed” are not at the high-octane levels of the established “Fast and the Furious” franchise, the film’s projected mid-$20 million domestic launch, added to a day-and-date debut in practically every major overseas market (including China), should give it a more-than-serviceable jump off the starting line.

The film bows alongside Lionsgate’s “Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club,” which tracking services have pegged in the $15 million-$18 million range. Holdovers “300: Rise of an Empire” and “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” should outperform “Single Moms” in the low-$20 millions each.

One to watch will be the Kickstarter-funded limited release “Veronica Mars,” which Warner Bros. in partnership with its digital division is releasing simultaneously on video-on-demand and at 291 theaters across the country, the vast majority of them AMC locations. Warners and AMC hosted higher-priced fan events of the film on Thursday, selling out weeks ago.

The anticipation behind “Veronica Mars,” which had more than 90,000 Kickstarter backers, comes from a very fervent core fanbase of the cult TV show. “Need for Speed,” on the other hand, scored well in early screenings beyond fans of the popular racing videogame series, on which the film is based.

Disney is releasing the film at 3,115 domestic locations, including approximately 2,100 3D and 280 premium large-format screens.

Budgeted at $66 million, “Need for Speed” must grow legs through the spring break holidays, as well as make considerable tracks internationally, to be considered a hit financially. DreamWorks needs the film to be profitable following commercial bombs including “The Fifth Estate” and “Delivery Man.” A few positives in its corner are “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul, added to the popularity of the vidgames, which have generated more than $4 billion in revenue. That said, racecar movies haven’t done well at the box office historically.

“Single Moms Club,” meanwhile, appeals to the core Perry fanbase, launching in the usual first-quarter release date via Lionsgate, though, this time, as a lead-up to Easter. In addition to African-American women, Perry films also tend to draw strong interest among Hispanic femmes; this film should do so even more, with Latino heartthrob William Levy co-starring.

Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight expands Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” to 66 theaters after scoring a record-setting per-screen average last weekend.

Also in limited release, Focus Features launches Jason Bateman’s adult comedy “Bad Words” at six locations, with plans to expand the film nationwide March 21. The film marks only the second release for Focus following its absorption of FilmDistrict. The former company, under previous head James Schamus, acquired “Bad Words” at last year’s Toronto Film Festival.

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