‘Rango’ takes on crowded box office

Animated pic to face 'Adjustment Bureau,' 'Take Me Home Tonight,' 'Beastly'

With four diverse entries bowing wide this weekend, led by Paramount’s toon “Rango” at 3,917 locations, industryites hope more multiplex traffic will start to turnaround the box office’s recent slump.

Rango” is joined by Universal’s adult-skewing drama “The Adjustment Bureau,” Relativity Media’s laffer “Take Me Home Tonight” and CBS Films’ “Beastly,” with distrib banking on high interest from teen and tween girls.

The weekend also will be the first post-Oscars outing for “The King’s Speech” and “Black Swan,” the frame’s best performing Oscar pics of late. The Weinstein Co.’s “The King’s Speech” has cumed $116.6 million with solid mid-week figures, while Fox Searchlight’s “Black Swan,” at fewer locations than “Speech,” has grossed $104 million. That makes it Fox’s highest-grossing 2010 release, beating “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” with $103.8 million through Wednesday.

It’s also a packed weekend at the specialty B.O., including Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives,” which launched Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum. Strand Releasing adds two more Stateside locations today.

Searchlight’s comedy “Cedar Rapids” expands to an additional 41 cities this weekend, for a total 235 locations, up 99 from last weekend. To date, “Cedar Rapids” has grossed $2.5 million domestically.

But the biggest question mark revolves around Par’s “Rango,” which is expected to debut on top.

Toons typically open modestly, especially during non-summer dates, but tend to grow lengthy legs. Par is comparing “Rango” to the studio’s late March 2010 toon, DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which some B.O. observers called a soft opening at $43.7 million. “Dragon” wound up grossing a boffo $217.6 million domestically.

That’s roughly the opening bar Par has set for “Rango,” though some contend the toon could reach as high as $50 million through Sunday; that would make it the year’s highest opening. Still, family pics are notoriously hard to predict, and with a soft marketplace, “Rango” could fall on either side of expectations.

Budgeted at $135 million, Gore Verbinski’s “Rango” features a voice cast toplining Johnny Depp, also with Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty and Bill Nighy.

Par emphasized Depp’s popularity in marketing the toon, which is tracking best with parents and slightly less so, though still solidly, with kids. Toon could appeal to wider auds such as teens and young adults. Major international markets, including Germany, Mexico, Spain and the U.K., will bow the film this weekend.

Targeting auds over 25, U expects “The Adjustment Bureau,” bowing at 2,849 locations, to land in the mid-to-high teens range, but rival studios say that could be closer to the low-20s mark.

Adjustment Bureau” was originally dated for Sept. 17 but bumped to give star Matt Damon time to promote the film. He had two other titles in 2010: “True Grit” and “Hereafter.” Damon plays a rising politician who fights a team of future adjusters to be with the woman he loves, played by Emily Blunt.

U bought the film, written and directed by George Nolfi, from MRC for $62 million. Overseas appeal will help; pic launches day and date this weekend in 21 markets, including Australia, Russia and the U.K.

The week’s remaining two wide releases, “Beastly” and “Take Me Home Tonight,” aren’t expected to reach heights set by either “Rango” or “Adjustment Bureau,” as both “Beastly,” at 1,952 locations, and “Take Me Home Tonight” (2,006) likely will land somewhere below $10 million.

CBS Films hopes femmes aged 13-17 make the wait for “Beastly” worthwhile. The film was supposed to bow last year on July 30, but CBS Films re-dated the “Beauty and the Beast” remake until after DreamWorks’ “I Am Number Four,” which also stars Alex Pettyfer.

Based on Alex Flinn’s young adult novel, “Beastly,” which also stars Vanessa Hudgens, was budgeted for $17 million, according to sources.

Meanwhile, “Take Me Home Tonight” cost less than $20 million, though Relativity paid a reported $10 million after acquiring U’s Rogue label. Pic, toplining Topher Grace and Anna Faris, tells the story of a college grad who returns home over Labor Day weekend to pursue his dream girl.

According to Relativity, the film should register best with the under-25 demo; however, pic’s 1980s soundtrack (and titular Eddie Money tune) may hold nostalgia for older auds.

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