Benicio Del Toro has morphed into a frightening creature in "The Wolfman." (Frank Connor / Universal…)
On Valentine's Day weekend, moviegoers are set to fall in love with an underdog on what's expected to be a packed weekend at theaters.
Romantic comedy "Valentine's Day," from Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema unit, will almost certainly sell more tickets in the U.S. and Canada than Universal Pictures' and 20th Century Fox's bigger-budget event films "The Wolfman" and "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief."
The big question for the weekend, distribution executives at several studios agreed, is whether all three films can comfortably coexist.
With the R-rated "Wolfman" doing best among men, PG-13 "Valentine's Day" appealing to women -- particularly younger ones -- and PG "Percy Jackson" going after tween boys and their parents, all three have distinct target audiences.
Overall intent to see movies is very high this weekend, so it's possible none will come out a big loser.
Just a week after romantic tear-jerker "Dear John" scored with a surprisingly strong $30.5-million launch, "Valentine's Day" is poised for a monster opening of about $50 million from Friday through Monday, which should be a strong moviegoing day because of the Presidents Day holiday. Because many people have Monday off, the evening of Valentine's Day on Sunday should be particularly lucrative for the film.
Despite a big-name ensemble cast that includes Julia Roberts, Jessica Biel and Ashton Kutcher, "Valentine's Day" cost a relatively modest $52 million to produce and should be very profitable for New Line.
Prospects are less certain going into the weekend for the two other movies. "Wolfman" is expected to open to $35 million to $40 million -- a decent but not spectacular start for such a costly movie. One person close to the project said it cost Universal and its financing partner Relativity Media a hefty $150 million, before tax credits, to produce. Universal said that the cost after tax credits was $110 million.
The remake of one of the studio's classic monster films had a troubled production with extensive reshoots and three delays in its release date before Universal finally settled on this weekend.
The picture, which stars Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, could do better overseas, where it's opening simultaneously in 37 territories including Mexico, France, Germany, South Korea and Brazil.
Family films are always particularly difficult to predict because children younger than 13 can't take part in pre-release polls, but estimates are that "Percy Jackson" will generate $24 million to $35 million for the four-day weekend.
Fox financed the movie with Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Film Partners at a cost of about $95 million. Like "Wolfman," it will need to generate solid word of mouth and international receipts to turn into a hit if its domestic launch is in line with estimates.
"Percy Jackson" opens this weekend in 63 foreign markets including Britain, Mexico and South Korea.
Fox will also open its foreign production "My Name Is Khan," which features Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, in India and at 120 domestic theaters in cities with large Indian American populations.
Times staff writer Claudia Eller contributed to this report.