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Box Office: ‘Bourne Legacy’ aims for No. 1

Jeremy Renner-starrer takes on newbies 'Campaign,' 'Hope Springs'

Expanding a popular franchise whose title character is nowhere to be seen is a risky business. But pre-weekend tracking in the $40 million range for Universal’s “The Bourne Legacy” suggests moviegoers may be willing to accept the Matt Damon-Jeremy Renner swap.

“Bourne Legacy,” which bows at 3,746 locations Stateside, is the latest attempt to rethink a franchise property — and the second this summer after Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

“Bourne” won’t land anywhere near Spidey, since that pic bowed midweek over the Fourth of July weekend, earning $173 million in six days. The U pic, however, is expected to have a more solid showing than last weekend’s $25 million opening for “Total Recall,” which cost the same to produce as “Bourne” at $125 million (not including marketing).

Though “Bourne” is tracking best with adults, Warner Bros.’ R-rated Will Ferrell-Zach Galifianakis laffer “The Campaign” has a lock on filmgoers under 25. “Campaign” launches today at 3,205 engagements and is expected to land in the mid-$20 millions.

Sony’s adult femme counterprogrammer “Hope Springs,” starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, bowed Wednesday with a modest $2.3 million.

By most reckoning, “Springs” should have done slightly better on Wednesday, especially since women are more frequent weekday moviegoers than men. “The Help,” for instance, launched in the same slot last year with $5.5 million, which translated into a $35.9 million five-day gross. “Springs” will fall short of that, likely landing in the mid-teens through Sunday.

The weekend’s opening trio still have to compete with “The Dark Knight Rises,” which enters its fourth Stateside frame with a commanding $367 million domestic cume. The Warner blockbuster took $35.7 million last weekend, down 42% — a touch better than its predecessor’s 43% third-outing drop. That pic declined 39% in its fourth frame, so if “TDKR” falls comparably, it will gross in the low-$20 millions this weekend.

The question this weekend isn’t whether “Bourne” can end “Dark Knight’s” three-weekend-long winning streak but rather just how high the U film can go. Past franchise installments similar to “Bourne Legacy,” such as “Casino Royale” or “X-Men: First Class,” typically open to 50% less than their predecessors. U’s third “Bourne” installment, “The Bourne Ultimatum,” opened to $69.3 million in 2007. But “Bourne” could still surprise: Consider Fox’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which was expected to debut in the high-$20 millions this time last year and wound up earning almost $55 million.

Meanwhile, the Olympics Closing Ceremony on Sunday could distract auds from plexes.

“Bourne Legacy,” written and directed by franchise scribe Tony Gilroy, launches day-and-date this weekend in 13 Eastern European and Asian markets. U expands the film internationally throughout the next three months.

This weekend, Australian auds will get to vote on Warner’s “Campaign,” which cost less than $60 million to produce. The comedy is based on U.S. politics, which could handicap it overseas.

Sony’s romantic comedy “Hope Springs” will look beyond opening weekend as femme-targeted pics usually leg out nicely this time of year. Each year for the past several years, pics such as “Eat Pray Love” and “Julie and Julia” have bowed in mid-August and managed to stick around theaters based on their appeal to women over 30, who are often underserved at the B.O. Disney-DreamWorks’ “The Help” became one of 2011’s sleeper hits, grossing more than $169 million domestically.

Arc Entertainment is going fairly wide with 3D action comedy “Nitro Circus the Movie,” which bows at approximately 800 locations. Variance Films, meanwhile, is playing it cool with Spike Lee’s Sundance player “Red Hook Summer,” launching the pic at four Stateside locations.

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