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‘Tomorrowland’ Eyes $50 Million Memorial Weekend Opening

Disney’s “Tomorrowland” is lining up to win the Memorial Weekend box office despite the fact that the movie is so shrouded in mystery that ticket buyers have only a vague idea what it’s even about. The big-budget tentpole, starring George Clooney, is poised to debut north of $50 million over the four-day holiday, according to industry tracking sources.

The science-fiction adventure, directed by Brad Bird, should pull in more than $40 million over the three-day weekend, giving the pricey film a chance of making back its $170 million production budget. Although tracking is strong and given the presence of Clooney and Bird (“Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol”), “Tomorrowland” represents one of the summer movie season’s biggest risks. It is neither a sequel nor a reboot.

Instead, it is an original movie that arrives cloaked in secrecy and without the benefit of a comicbook series or toy line to precondition viewers for the kind of ride that’s in store.

“They’re taking the approach that they want to surprise the public and not give too much away in their trailer, but the public is conditioned to know a lot about whatever movie they’re walking into,” said Phil Contrino, VP and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, adding: “The big thing is the Disney name. It just brings in families.”

Given how little moviegoers know about the film, its box office tracking could still be swayed by reviews, which are embargoed until Sunday.

It will go head-to-head with Fox’s “Poltergeist,” a PG-13 remake of the classic horror film that could siphon some teenagers away from “Tomorrowland.” “Poltergeist” is on track to debut to between $25 million to $30 million over the four-day weekend, according to industry tracking services.

“Tomorrowland,” which draws on company founder Walt Disney’s futuristic visions of a utopian society, features Clooney as a mysterious inventor and Britt Robertson as a young woman who finds a portal to a distant world. It debuts in the U.S. on May 22 and will roll out in most major foreign territories that same weekend, including the U.K., Russia, Italy, and Germany. A China release is scheduled for May 26 and will include Clooney’s first visit to the People’s Republic. The film will be more or less done with its foreign debuts by June 6 when it bows in Japan.

The film’s profile has been rising following its premiere last weekend at Disneyland. Clooney has been making the talkshow rounds to talk up “Tomorrowland,” and the studio has begun to advertise heavily on television, on billboards and across other platforms. Disney hopes that the picture will benefit from a lack of family offerings at the multiplex. The last films pitched at moviegoers with children were “Home,” which bowed in March, and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” which debuted in mid-April.

Contrino likens “Tomorrowland’s” challenge to the hurdle facing “Mad Max: Fury Road.” That futuristic thriller is a sequel, but 25 years lie between installments, meaning that most consumers will approach it as an original proposition. Nothing is more difficult to sell in Hollywood than a fresh idea.

“They need time for people to discover them,” he said. “But once they open, I think they’re going to be hits.”

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