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'Rango' expected to gallop to No. 1 at box office

The animated western is likely to beat out 'The Adjustment Bureau' at the box office this weekend.

March 04, 2011|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times

There will be a shootout at the box office this weekend, but Paramount Pictures' first self-produced big-budget computer-animated film "Rango" should be the one left standing.

The western, which stars a chameleon voiced by actor Johnny Depp and cost close to $150 million to make, probably will open with about $45 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

The weekend's other new releases aren't expected to sell nearly as many tickets. "The Adjustment Bureau," a sci-fi action romance starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, is expected to gross about $20 million. The teen romance "Beastly" will probably collect between $8 million and $10 million, slightly more than the $4 million to $6 million that the post-college-set comedy "Take Me Home Tonight" is projected to gross.

"Rango," the first animated feature from George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic, has earned largely positive reviews from critics and is tracking well with younger moviegoers and their parents. The film opens in 28 foreign markets this week.

Paramount is hoping that the picture will follow in the footsteps of previous animated hits released in March. Last year's "How to Train Your Dragon" opened to $43.7 million, and "Monsters vs. Aliens" grossed $59.3 million when it landed in 2009. Unlike those films, however, "Rango" is not 3-D, which could cost it a few million dollars.

"The Adjustment Bureau" should be off to a solid start if projections are correct. The film was financed by Media Rights Capital, and Universal Pictures acquired its worldwide distribution rights for $62 million. The movie, which centers on a couple kept apart by supernatural forces, is appealing to an older audience. It also opens this weekend in 21 foreign territories.

"Adjustment Bureau" is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, an author whose work has given Hollywood such past hits as "Total Recall" and "Minority Report." Recent adaptations of his stories haven't resonated as strongly with audiences. Both 2006's "A Scanner Darkly" and 2007's "Next" flopped at the box office.

"Beastly," a modern retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" featuring young stars Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens, is the fifth film release from CBS Films. The movie company, launched in 2007 by CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, is still looking for its first hit.

The distributor's best opening weekend was last April's $12.2-million launch of "The Back-Up Plan," a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez.

"Beastly," produced for just under $20 million before tax rebates and originally set for release last July, is not expected to hit that mark despite generating strong interest among teen girls. The ending of the movie was reshot to emphasize the romantic relationship between the two main characters.

"Take Me Home Tonight," an '80s romp starring Topher Grace, cost about $19 million to make, including reshoots, but Relativity Media bought the film's U.S. rights from Universal Pictures for $10 million. Relativity has been screening the movie on college campuses in an effort to generate word of mouth among the under-25 crowd.

This is the fourth wide release from Relativity since the company began distributing its own movies last summer. It's unlikely that "Take Me Home Tonight" will surpass the opening weekend tally of the studio's most recent release, January's "Season of the Witch," which debuted at $10.6 million.

After winning a best picture Oscar on Sunday, Weinstein Co.'s "The King's Speech" should see a bump in business this weekend. On the day after the Oscars in 2009, "Slumdog Millionaire" — in its 15th week of release — grossed $1.2 million and ultimately went on to gross $141.3 million. "The King's Speech" has been in theaters for 96 days. It has a domestic tally of $115.8 million and has made an additional $154.3 million overseas.

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