The pricey 3-D sword-and-sandal epic "Immortals" will probably slay the competition at the box office this weekend, taking down an Adam Sandler comedy and director Clint Eastwood's latest movie.
"Immortals," a fast-paced action movie set in ancient Greece, is expected to open with about $30 million in ticket sales, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
"Jack and Jill," starring a cross-dressing Sandler, could collect about $22 million on its first weekend, and Eastwood's "J. Edgar," in which Leonardo DiCaprio portrays former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, is projected to take in about $12 million.
There's also the possibility that "Puss in Boots" could fend off all challengers again. The animated 3-D picture has claimed the No. 1 spot two times in a row, with ticket sales dropping an unusually low 3% in its second week in theaters. The DreamWorks Animation release has grossed more than $80 million and could break the $100-million mark this weekend.
Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media has a lot at stake with "Immortals," which cost the independent studio about $80 million to produce and at least $50 million more to market. Directed by Tarsem Singh, it's the first big-budget picture that Relativity both produced and is distributing.
Singh, best known for 2000's Jennifer Lopez thriller "The Cell," is directing an even more expensive movie, an adaptation of "Snow White," for the company next year.
Relativity has released a string of flops in recent months, including "Machine Gun Preacher," "Take Me Home Tonight" and "Season of the Witch."
"Immortals" was produced by the filmmakers behind the 2006 blockbuster "300," which was also set in ancient Greece and raked in more than $450 million worldwide. Like "300," this weekend "Immortals" is expected to attract a largely young, male audience. The film, which stars future "Superman" Henry Cavill, has not earned fantastic reviews.
The movie is also set to open this weekend in 31 other countries, including Russia and China, where Relativity recently took a stake in a local production company. Instead of self-releasing the movie globally, Relativity has presold "Immortals" to a number of foreign distributors. That lowers its financial risk if the movie is not a success, but also minimizes the upside for Relativity if "Immortals" proves popular overseas.
Sony Pictures spent about $79 million to make "Jack and Jill," which was produced by Sandler's company Happy Madison. If projections are correct, the actor's latest film may mark one of his weakest premieres for a broad commercial comedy.
In the last decade, most of the star's similar films have opened to between $30 million and $40 million, including his last movie, February's "Just Go With It." His worst performance in recent years was the Judd Apatow-directed "Funny People," a comedy with darker themes that started off with about $22 million in 2009.
But even if "Jack and Jill" doesn't get off to a phenomenal start, the movie may ultimately end up in decent shape. Most of Sandler's films have maintained strong holds at the box office: He's starred in 12 movies that have crossed the $100-million milestone.
Warner Bros. released "J. Edgar" in seven theaters Wednesday to try to build positive buzz before it expands to multiplexes nationwide Friday. Produced for about $35 million, the film launched with a solid midweek gross of $53,000. The movie has earned middling reviews even though some award pundits believe it could bring DiCaprio a best actor Oscar nomination.