After wreaking havoc at the box office over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" is prepared to take down its rivals yet again.
The 3-D sequel, which has grossed more than $200 million domestically since opening the evening of June 28, should take in at least $40 million in additional ticket sales this weekend.
That will be far more than either of the two new films in wide release are expected to collect in their debuts. "Zookeeper," a PG-rated family film starring Kevin James and lots of wildlife, and "Horrible Bosses," an R-rated comedy about three men who attempt to murder their superiors, are each expected to take in around $20 million.
"Zookeeper," about a man who gets relationship advice from talking animals, has so far been unable to generate much audience interest, according to pre-release surveys. However, some successful family comedies don't do well in Hollywood polling because young children are not queried.
In recent years, James has found success at the box office when starring in family comedies. "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," the first movie in which he had a leading role, proved to be a surprise hit, opening to $31.8 million in 2009 and ultimately collecting $183.3 million in ticket sales worldwide. "Grown Ups," a PG-13-rated ensemble comedy in which he starred alongside comedians Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, grossed $271.4 million worldwide last summer.
If "Zookeeper" does not open to at least $20 million, it may spell trouble not only for James but its financial backers as well. The film, which features both live and computer-generated animals, was co-financed by Sony and MGM for $80 million. Sony took over its worldwide distribution and delayed the movie's release last year amid the financial woes of MGM, which subsequently filed for bankruptcy reorganization.
Sony is hoping that if "Zookeeper" fails to resonate with U.S. audiences, it can make up some ground internationally. The film is being released this weekend in Germany and Mexico. Although U.S. comedies don't traditionally play well abroad, talking animals have proved popular in the past.
While "Zookeeper" is going after the family audience, young adults probably will be the ones showing up to see "Horrible Bosses."
The ensemble comedy, which stars Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis, cost Warner Bros.' New Line Cinema $37 million to produce. Unlike "Zookeeper," which has a paltry 13% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, "Horrible Bosses" has been relatively well-reviewed.
Warner is hoping the film will be the latest R-rated comedy to find success this summer. Since being released in May, the studio's "The Hangover Part II" has amassed $548.9 million worldwide. And Universal's "Bridesmaids," which hit theaters the same month, has racked up a surprisingly healthy $189.2 million.
In limited release this weekend, Sony Pictures Classics will debut "Beats, Rhymes & Life," a documentary about the band A Tribe Called Quest, in one theater in Los Angeles and three in New York.