Box office chatter this week has mostly revolved around “Pacific Rim,” and yet the pricey monster pic could land at No. 3 domestically this weekend, with holdover toon “Despicable Me 2” and “Grown Ups 2,” one of the most critically savaged films this year, pegged for the two top spots.
Strong advanced ticket sales, largely from fanboys choosing Imax screenings, are making the prospects for “Pacific Rim” look stronger in the last gasp before its Thursday night opening. But fanboy fever alone probably won’t be enough to help the Warner Bros.-Legendary Pictures film open higher than the previously-predicted $35 million.
“Pacific Rim,” which cost upward of $185 million to produce, faces tough competition from Universal’s “Despicable Me 2,” which should win its second frame with a gross in the high-$40 millions, followed by Sony’s “Grown Ups 2,” tracking in the low-$40 millions.
The good news is that domestic box office has been especially elastic of late, capable of accommodating multiple big grossers at once.
“Pacific Rim” has been plagued by soft domestic tracking for the last several weeks. But enthusiastic monster pic fans (many of whom complained about Variety‘s review and tracking stories) are propping up advance ticket sales, while the pic stands at 72% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Popular on Variety
By midweek, advanced ticket sales for “Pacific Rim” outpaced those of “World War Z,” which wound up overperforming with a $66 million domestic opening four weeks ago. However, the key difference for “Pacific Rim” is that it has Imax (“World War Z” didn’t), which tends to inflate advanced sales. As it stands, observers aren’t expecting “Pac Rim” to outperform its current expectations by much.
But what “Pacific Rim” really needs is better-than-expected family turnout — a possibility considering families are especially difficult to track relating to box office potential. Also — and it’s a big also — the film needs to become a hit overseas: Warner launches the film day-and-date this weekend in 38 territories, including the U.K., Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Italy and Australia.
Warner has high hopes for “Pac Rim” in Russia and S. Korea, especially, as well as in helmer Guillermo del Toro’s native Mexico.
The pic’s international rollout this weekend represents roughly 45% of the international market, though key territories, including France, Japan and China are set to follow in the coming weeks. Those markets will be very important for “Pacific Rim,” especially the latter two, where monster movies, in general, tend to overperform. Pic’s July 31 launch date in China is fortunate as it’s so close to the domestic release. (China Film Group controls all release dates on the mainland.)
Meanwhile, “Grown Ups 2,” with a far more manageable price tag of $80 million, could overperform given its family appeal and popularity for the original, which scored a surprising $40 million-plus Stateside opening three years ago. The sequel returns stars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade, as a group of reunited high-school friends now middle-aged. Pic co-stars Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Maria Bello.
Though it’s not a review-driven type of pic, critics have been uniformly brutal, with 0% positive reviews among Rotten Tomatoes’ top critics.
Neither newcomer is expected to overtake “Despicable Me 2,” however.
Last weekend, the boffo toon sequel scored the highest-ever five-day opening for an animated film. If the pic falls a reasonable 45%, it will gross around $45 million in three days. “Despicable Me 2” has shown midweek strength, which positions it well for the weekend. Pic’s cumed $175.3 million domestically through Wednesday.
Disney’s box office dud “The Lone Ranger” also enters its second frame, having grossed just $57 million Stateside in its first full week. The film could have a decent hold, given its promising ‘B+’ CinemaScore, though it’ll still only make small waves coming off last weekend’s $29 million three-day gross.
At the specialty box office, the Weinstein Co. bows Sundance prize winner “Fruitvale Station,” about a real-life shooting in the Bay Area in 2008, at seven Stateside engagements.
Film (Distributor): Locations