‘Wall-E,’ ‘Wanted’ gear up box office

Disney-Pixar, Universal close out hot June

Disney-Pixar summer tentpole “Wall-E” and Universal’s turbo-charged Angelina Jolie starrer “Wanted” should fuel a continued winning streak at the June box office as they open this weekend, capping an unexpectedly strong month in terms of theater traffic.

“Wall-E,” the ninth pic from Pixar, is opening in 3,992 theaters, the R-rated “Wanted” in 3,175.

Total B.O. revenues for June are running 20% ahead of 2007, while admissions are up a strong 17.3%. The June bloom has helped lessen an overall decline in admissions for the year. At the beginning of the month, attendance was down 4.3%; now, admissions for the year are running 2.6% behind 2007 levels.

For the summer sesh — which began May 2 with the bow of “Iron Man” — box office revenues are 3.6% ahead of the same period in 2007. Admissions are essentially flat.

There have been a number of surprises, and this weekend could bring another with “Wanted” should the actioner outperform other R-rated pics that have bowed in the summer.

“Wall-E,” the whimsical tale of a robot who’s all alone on the planet Earth of the future, was receiving nothing but rave reviews as of Thursday afternoon and is predicted to win the weekend overall.

Pixar and Disney’s 2007 toon “Ratatouille” grossed $47 million in its domestic debut on its way to cuming $206.4 million. Film grossed $415 million overseas for a worldwide total of $621.4 million.

Most are predicting that “Wall-E” will easily open bigger than “Ratatouille,” as its title character is far more adorable than a rodent.

“Wall-E” marks Andrew Stanton’s first directorial outing since Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.”

Earlier this month, DreamWorks Animation and Paramount’s “Kung Fu Panda” opened to $60.2 million. (“Panda” has grossed $164.5 million through Wednesday, according to Rentrak.) “Panda” had the advantage of opening in a less-crowded playing field, while “Wall-E” has the advantage of carrying the Pixar brand.

“Wanted,” also toplining James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman and loosely based on the comicstrip by Mark Millar, is about a band of super-assassins. It was directed by Russian-Kazakh filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov.

Tracking is strong for “Wanted” across all audiences, although it should skew on the younger side. It’s not commonplace for R-rated actioners to open in summer, a season for more kid-friendly fare. “Bad Boys II,” released in July 2003, scored the highest opening ever for an R-rated summer release at $46.5 million.

“Wanted” could take business away from Universal and Marvel Studios’ “The Incredible Hulk,” which enters its third weekend with a domestic gross of $104.2 million through Wednesday.

Based on tracking and the combined strength of the cast and the action factor, some box office forecasters believe “Wanted” could cross the $40 million mark in its bow. An opening in the $30 million-$40 million range would be considered good.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. will look to keep the laughs going for “Get Smart,” which was No. 1 last weekend in its debut with $38.7 million. Cume through Wednesday was $59.9 million.

On the specialty side, Yash Raj opens Bollywood dramedy “Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic” in 84 theaters in select markets. Magnolia opens dramedy “Finding Amanda,” starring Brittany Snow and Matthew Broderick, in 14 locations. IFC bows foreign period drama “The Last Mistress” in two theaters in New York.

On the foreign front, no single pic looks to dominate, with distribs mostly opting for targeted markets and counting mostly on holdover biz.

That’s been the pattern for the last three frames, which have seen male moviegoers distracted by the Euro Cup soccer tournament. Sunday’s final game, with Germany facing Spain, will probably dent weekend biz.

Universal’s day-and-date launch of “Wanted” may have the best shot since it has the highest profile of any newcomer with launches in 22 territories including Russia, South Korea and the U.K. Foreign markets have shown plenty of traction recently for actioners such as “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Iron Man,” “Jumper” and “I Am Legend.”

Disney has opted for a gradual international release for “Wall-E,” with Brazil the only major market opening this weekend. Expectations are sky high given that Pixar’s last pic, “Ratatouille,” topped $400 million internationally.

Another Disney family pic, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” is expanding into France and the U.K. in the sequel’s first move into Europe. “Caspian” has generated solid numbers elsewhere with $140 million in offshore coin already.

Paramount is expanding “Kung Fu Panda” into Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with $70 million already banked in Asia.

Other launches include “Get Smart” (which won’t hit Western Europe until next month) into Australia, Argentina and Indonesia. “The Incredible Hulk,” with a $70 million international cume, goes into Belgium and Denmark, and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” opens in Norway and Spain.

Biz should surge next weekend, when Sony goes for a worldwide day-and-date opening for “Hancock.”