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'Thor' expected to pound two rivals on opening weekend

Box-office estimates for the film's start range from $55 million to $70 million, far more than for 'Something Borrowed' and 'Jumping the Broom.' 'Fast Five' remains a strong contender.

May 06, 2011|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times

Last weekend, "Fast Five" kicked off the summer box office, posting the biggest opening weekend of the year. This weekend, Hollywood is hoping "Thor," another expensive studio event film, will continue to reverse the industry's prolonged moviegoing slump.

"Fast Five" was the first film in 2011 able to attract movie fans in droves, opening with a higher-than-expected $86.2 million. Despite the strong showing, ticket sales for the year are down 14%.

The 3-D "Thor," based on the classic Marvel comic book character, isn't expected to match the premiere of "Fast Five," although it will probably still have a solid first weekend.

According to people who have seen prerelease audience surveys, the movie could open to about $70 million, although Paramount Pictures is estimating a more conservative performance of $55 million to $60 million.

In any event, "Thor" will hammer down the weekend's other two new wide releases, "Something Borrowed" and "Jumping the Broom." Both are romantic comedies about weddings and should open to around $11 million each.

All three new movies will face competition from "Fast Five," which has continued to generate robust weekday business, grossing $6.2 million Tuesday alone. Audiences who saw the film featuring high-speed cars last weekend gave it an average grade of A, according to market research firm CinemaScore. This weekend, the movie should add at least $40 million to its current tally of just over $100 million in the U.S. and Canada.

"Thor" is being distributed by Paramount but was financed for $150 million by Marvel, which is owned by Walt Disney Studios. That means Disney will receive the majority of the profits or incur any losses from the film. The well-reviewed movie is attracting more men than women despite its handsome leading man, Australian newcomer Chris Hemsworth.

Although its opening is unlikely to match the $98.6-million opening of "Iron Man" in 2008, "Thor" should outperform the $55.4-million premiere of Marvel's "The Incredible Hulk" in 2008. Overseas, "Thor" is performing well. Last weekend, it played in 56 foreign markets and collected $83 million, bringing its international box-office total to $125 million. The film will open in Finland and China this weekend.

"Something Borrowed," based on Emily Giffin's bestselling novel of the same name, stars Kate Hudson and was produced and financed by Alcon Entertainment for about $35 million. The Warner Bros. release is generating the most buzz among women under age 35, who are probably familiar with the popular "chick-lit" book.

"Jumping the Broom," also about marriage, features a predominantly African American cast. The movie was financed by Sony's TriStar label for about $7 million and is tracking best with females. The film was produced by Our Stories Films, the studio co-founded by the founder of Black Entertainment Television, Robert Johnson. It is the second movie from the company, whose first release, "Who's Your Caddy," flopped in 2007.

In limited release, Summit Entertainment will open "The Beaver," marking the start of what will be a referendum on Mel Gibson's popularity with the public. Gibson's reputation, already damaged by a drunken anti-Semitic rant in 2006, worsened last summer when recordings surfaced of the actor apparently making abusive remarks to former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva over the telephone.

As a result, Summit struggled to choose a release date for the film directed by Jodie Foster, who co-stars with Gibson. In February, the studio pushed the movie's opening from March to May. The motion picture, which cost Summit and partners Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi $21 million to produce, has garnered decent reviews. This weekend it will open in 22 theaters.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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