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Box office ‘Toy’ ploy

Hollywood hopes 3D threequel plays nice

Disney/Pixar will open its toy chest again this weekend, with “Toy Story 3” — the toon franchise’s first 3D installment — expected to dominate the domestic B.O. at 4,028 playdates. Toon opens alongside the frame’s only other wide release, Warner Bros.’ graphic-novel adaptation “Jonah Hex,” at 2,825.

Specialty releases include Fox Searchlight’s Sundance offering “Cyrus,” helmed by mumblecore directors Jay and Mark Duplass, at four locations in New York and L.A. Starring Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei, the comedy screens tonight at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

While most B.O. observers anticipate “Toy Story 3” will charm worldwide auds in a big way, the question is how big.

Disney will delay “Toy Story 3” in most overseas territories to avoid conflicting with the World Cup soccer tourney but will launch the toon day-and-date in markets including Russia and China.

Domestically, the Mouse House has poised “Toy Story 3” to reap boffo returns this weekend, with aggressive marketing and merchandising campaigns, as well as a record-setting count of 2,463 3D-equipped screens; Imax will add 180 locations to the toon’s tally.

But with 3D toons “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Shrek Forever After” starting out more slowly than expected, some question whether families are willing to shell out 3D surcharges during opening weekend. Both “Dragon” and “Shrek” have proved potent in subsequent frames, grossing a collective $430 million domestically, which should ultimately bode well for the Mouse House’s latest toon offering.

The studio’s only previous 3D title, “Up,” totaled $293 million domestically, debuting with $68.1 million last year, of which 52% came from 3D. “Toy Story 3” is expected to surpass that number, as well as Pixar’s top openings, especially given an estimated 30% premium upcharge for 3D tickets.

“Finding Nemo,” which grossed $339.7 million in 2003, opened to $70.3 million, surpassed only by 2004’s “The Incredibles” ($70.5 million). That toon cumed $261.4 million.

“Toy Story 3” reunites the franchise’s original voice cast, including Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, 11 years after “Toy Story 2” hit theaters. This time around, the franchise adds some new toys such as a Ken doll (Michael Keaton) and a scented teddy bear named Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty). Toon is directed by Lee Unkrich, who served as co-director on “Toy Story 2,” from a script by Unkrich, Michael Arndt, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton.

In anticipation of “Toy Story 3,” Disney re-released the first two pics as a 3D double bill last year, grossing $30.7 million. The franchise grossed a total $437.7 million domestically during the initial releases.

While Disney expects “Toy Story 3” to be tops with all audiences, the frame’s other wide release, “Jonah Hex,” should appeal most to younger males. Based on a DC comicbook, supernatural actioner “Hex” stars Josh Brolin as the Western antihero along with Megan Fox and John Malkovich. Warner has low-end expectations for the film, budgeted at an estimated $35 million.

Appealing to younger moviegoers, last week’s frame-topper, Sony’s “The Karate Kid,” will look to maintain its share of family auds. Pic kicked its competish last weekend with $55.7 million, followed by 20th Century Fox’s reboot “The A-Team,” which debuted to $25.7 million. Both films could hold well with positive word of mouth and strong mid-week figures.

Roadside Attractions plans a wider-than-usual rollout of Sundance award winner “Winter’s Bone” to 38 locations. Pic debuted last weekend at four locations with solid results. Also expanding in its soph sesh, IFC’s docu “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” will screen at 29 engagements.

Magnolia’s Italian-lingo “I Am Love,” starring Tilda Swinton, joins a crowded slate of specialty pics at eight Stateside locations. IFC also will launch a pair of new entries, “Let It Rain” and Michael Winterbottom’s “The Killer Inside Me.”

Overseas, “Toy Story 3” launches day-and-date in 25% of the international marketplace, looking to compete with top holdovers “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “Sex and the City 2.” “Prince” has cumed $196.1 million so far, while “Sex and the City 2’s” overseas totals reached $131.1 million last weekend.

The most recent entries on the international front, “The A-Team” and “Karate Kid,” struggled to entice audiences during mid-throw of the World Cup. “A-Team” grossed $14.4 million in 34 markets, “Karate Kid,” $6 million in 10 markets. Fox will expand “A-Team” to an additional 15 markets this weekend, including tourney mainstays France and Italy.

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