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'Wimpy' takes on 'Sucker'

'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' and 'Sucker Punch' are each expected to gross $20 million to $25 million this weekend.

March 25, 2011|Amy Kaufman

"Sucker Punch," a film about five girls who kick butt, could take a blow at the box office this weekend from an unlikely competitor: a "Wimpy Kid."

At the moment, it's too close to call. Both movies -- director Zack Snyder's latest action film and the family sequel "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules," based on a popular children's book -- are on track to open with $20 million to $25 million in ticket sales, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

But there's far more at stake financially for "Sucker Punch," about a posse of strong-willed young women trying to escape from an insane asylum. It's generating strong interest from Snyder's largely male fan base, but they may not be able to lift its opening above the lowS to mid-20s, which would be a soft start for the film, co-financed by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures at a cost of $82 million.

Snyder's last two movies weren't exactly blockbusters, falling dramatically short of the success of his March 2007 surprise hit "300," which opened to $70.9 million. His most recent release, the family movie "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole," based on the children's book, opened last fall with $16.1 million and went on to gross $55.7 million domestically. His 2009 comic book adaptation "Watchmen" had a stronger debut of $55.2 million but was ultimately not the hit that Warner Bros. had hoped for.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, March 31, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Film box office: The Movie Projector column in the March 25 Business section, forecasting the film box office for last weekend, weighed the prospects of new releases including "Sucker Punch." The caption for a photo from that film misspelled the last name of actress Jena Malone as Malonet.

The performance of "Sucker Punch," the first movie Snyder has written and directed that's not based on an existing property, is important for the filmmaker. His stock with audiences means a lot to Warner Bros., which has tapped Snyder to direct its upcoming Superman film. The studio is hoping the picture will spawn a lucrative franchise to succeed its Harry Potter series, which comes to a close with a July release.

"Sucker Punch" will also open this weekend in 23 foreign markets, including Italy, Spain, Taiwan and Mexico.

If the "Wimpy Kid" sequel does well, 20th Century Fox will have successfully launched a new franchise of its own. The original film, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," released in March of last year, did surprisingly well for the studio, opening to $22.1 million and ultimately grossing $64 million domestically. The film cost just over $19 million.

The second installment in the series, which centers on a middle school student's relationship with his older brother, was produced for about $21 million. Though the movie's target audience is young boys, the film is also generating some interest from teenage girls who have expressed a desire to see a new tween actor featured in the movie, Devon Bostick.

It remains to be seen how many kids will turn up to see the movie this weekend, however. When the first film opened last year, more children were out on spring break, meaning a bump in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday this year could be lower.

The movie will open in its first foreign market, Australia, in mid-April.

In limited release, Weinstein Co. will open Julian Schnabel's "Miral" in four theaters. After the distributor filed an appeal with the Motion Picture Assn. of America earlier this month, the movie about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had its rating downgraded from R to PG-13.

In other ratings news, Weinstein Co. said Thursday that it would release a PG-13 version of best-picture winner "The King's Speech" next weekend. A cut of the film without any swearing will replace the current R-rated version in 1,000 theaters April 1.

The movie, starring Colin Firth, who won an Oscar for his role, is still making money. Last weekend the film grossed about $2 million, bringing its domestic tally to $132.5 million.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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