Box Office: ‘Pixels,’ ‘Paper Towns’ Jump Into Crowded Summer Field

It’s getting harder and harder for summer releases to avoid getting stampeded by the popcorn season herd.

This weekend, “Pixels,” a gaming comedy with Adam Sandler; “Southpaw,” a boxing drama with Jake Gyllenhaal; and “Paper Towns,” a tween weepie from John Green, the author of “Fault in Our Stars,” all enter the fray. The issue is that holdovers like last weekend’s champ, “Ant-Man,” and the critically heralded “Trainwreck” are both expected to do solid business in their second weekends, and juggernauts like “Jurassic World” and “Minions” continue to draw big crowds. Something’s got to give.

Sony, the studio behind “Pixels,” is predicting a muted debut of roughly $25 million for the comedy, while analysts are pegging an opening of $30 million. If the film fails to hit $30 million it could have difficulty being profitable unless foreign audiences lift it into the black. Bringing together Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Tetris together in one film was pricey, setting the studio back $88 million before marketing and distribution costs are taken into account. Sony will roll out the film in 3,500 theaters domestically and 47 overseas markets with the hopes that the videogame concept and colorful special effects will attract audiences across the globe.

Sandler, once a reliable box office draw, has struggled of late at the multiplexes, with the likes of “Jack & Jill,” “That’s My Boy” and “Blended” all failing to ignite. Only “Grown Ups 2” has recaptured his winning ways, so he could use a summer hit if he wants to prove he still should command a big paycheck.

As for “Paper Towns,” the picture doesn’t need to do “Fault in Our Stars“-type numbers to make money. That film stunned the industry last summer when it made $307 million globally on a $12 million budget — a figure “Paper Towns” won’t hit given that it lacks a movie star on the level of Shailene Woodley among its cast and “Fault in Our Stars” was Green’s best selling book. Fox, the studio behind the picture, didn’t release a budget, but it is in the range of “Fault’s” cost. Look for “Paper Towns,” which follows a young man’s scavenger hunt for his missing love, to pull in $20 million when it premieres on roughly 3,100 locations. That number could move northwards if teens embrace the picture and word-of-mouth goes viral, analysts say.

“Southpaw,” the story of a boxer who must resurrect his live inside and outside the ring after enduring a series of personal tragedies and professional setbacks, is looking at an opening of $13 million. The adult drama is hoping to show some endurance as the alternative to all the superhero films and franchise pictures. The Weinstein Company backed the roughly $30 million production and will push the picture into approximately 2,750 venues.

Competition among the trio of new releases could allow “Ant-Man” to retain its box office crown. The film debuted to $57.2 million and could be headed to a sophomore weekend of roughly $30 million.

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