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'Harry Potter' to work box-office magic again over holiday weekend

Disney's 'Tangled' is likely to enjoy the strongest start among four new releases as families flock to the movies.

November 24, 2010|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

Movie theaters will be stuffed with four new releases for Thanksgiving, but the producers of last weekend's No. 1 film will have the most to be grateful for by Sunday.

" Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1," which collected $125 million on its opening weekend and an additional $8.8 million on Monday, is certain to top the box-office charts again, people who closely follow ticket sales say. It should rake in $80 million to $90 million from Wednesday through Sunday as it continues to perform similarly to " Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which opened on the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2005.

Meanwhile, three new pictures — the 3-D animated fairy tale "Tangled," musical "Burlesque" and romantic drama "Love & Other Drugs" — will compete for a primarily female audience, while action film "Faster" is the only one pursuing men.

Still, there's one demographic that will make up the bulk of ticket sales over the holiday weekend.

"Thanksgiving is easily the most reliable family moviegoing weekend of the year," said Chuck Viane, Walt Disney Studios' distribution president.

All four new pictures are tracking for decent openings, according to pre-release surveys, but will need to outperform expectations or generate strong word of mouth to turn into box-office successes.

Disney's "Tangled" is likely to enjoy the strongest start because it has generated solid interest among women and girls, according to pre-release surveys. Although the studio is counting on mothers and daughters to make up the core of "Tangled's" audience, it retooled the film during its long production and designed advertising to prominently feature a male protagonist in hopes of drawing some boys as well.

Still, it appears that the opening will be only slightly better than last year's disappointment, "The Princess and the Frog," which debuted to $24.2 million in its first three days. "Tangled" should do closer to $30 million for the three-day weekend and $40 million from Wednesday through Sunday.

Disney has a lot riding on "Tangled," which has been in development for more than six years and cost more than $260 million to produce. Like "The Princess and the Frog," it should sell more tickets overseas. This weekend the movie starts its international run in a few countries, including Russia.

"Burlesque" appears best positioned to be No. 3. The musical romance, which marks the big-screen debut of Christina Aguilera and the return of Cher after more than a decade without a starring role in a film, is most likely to open at $20 million to $25 million for the five-day weekend, several people who have seen pre-release polling said. A Sony Pictures spokesman said the studio was expecting a start closer to $18 million.

With production costs of $55 million after the benefit of California tax credits, "Burlesque" is one of the most expensive movies to come out of Screen Gems, Sony's low-budget genre label.

Romantic drama/comedy "Love & Other Drugs," which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, is likely to have the softest start of the new movies aimed at women, with about $15 million for the five days. Still, 20th Century Fox and Regency Pictures spent only about $30 million to make it, giving them as much chance as their competitors to turn a profit.

Makers of the Dwayne Johnson vehicle "Faster" are hoping to get men who go to the movies alone or with male friends this weekend because drawing families and women to the violent R-rated drama will be difficult. It's the third release for the fledgling CBS Films, which split the $24-million production budget with Sony Pictures. "Faster" probably will collect about $15 million for the five-day holiday weekend.

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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