Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is off to a strong start at the box office, racking up an estimated $4.6 million in Thursday screenings.

The shelled adventure debuted in approximately 2,651 locations, and is expected to make just shy of $50 million this weekend in the U.S. Paramount Pictures, which is releasing the film, compared the overnight results to “Maleficent’s” $4 million Thursday haul en route to a $69.4 million opening earlier this summer. The studio contends both films are family pictures, although “Maleficent” drew an overwhelmingly female crowd and “Ninja Turtles” seems pitched at a different gender and could draw twenty-somethings prone to associate Michelangelo with a pizza-eating reptile instead of simply a Renaissance great.

To that end, the latest “Ninja Turtles” is benefiting from a combination of nostalgia for the 1990s films, TV shows and toy lines, as well as a new generation of fans weaned on Nickelodeon’s rebooted series. “Transformers” director Michael Bay produced the film, which stars his sometime muse, Megan Fox.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” will expand to more than 3,800 locations. The film cost $125 million to produce. Its main competition comes from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The Marvel picture re-energized a fading summer box office when it debuted to $94.3 million last weekend and analysts expect it will continue to be a strong performer. It’s should generate roughly $45 million in ticket sales this weekend, giving “Ninja Turtles” a run for first place on the box office charts.

Internationally, “Ninja Turtles” opens in 17 markets, including Russia and Mexico.

It’s shaping up to be a crowded weekend at the multiplexes. Disaster film “Into the Storm” is also being released by Warner Bros. on 3,434 screens and is expected to generate $18 million at the box office. The film corralled an estimated $800,000 in Thursday previews.

There’s also DreamWorks’ “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” a dueling chefs tale, and Summit’s “Step Up All In,” the fifth installment in the dance competition franchise, both of which will premiere in more than 2,000 locations. Look for “Journey” to pull in $10 million and the latest “Step Up” to sashay to $8 million.

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