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'Burt Wonderstone' could vaporize if 'The Call' dials up biz

March 14, 2013|By Amy Kaufman
  • Steve Carell and Olivia Wilde star in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," which is likely to land in the runner-up position at the box office this weekend.
Steve Carell and Olivia Wilde star in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,"… (Warner Bros. )

“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” would have to pull a rabbit out of its hat to avoid a disappearing act at the box office.

Despite its bigger budget and higher-profile cast, the magic comedy starring Steve Carell and Jim Carrey will have to fight against the thriller "The Call" for the weekend's runner-up position.

As for the No. 1 spot?

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It will almost certainly be claimed once again by “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. After debuting with a robust $79.1 million, the PG-rated 3-D film is expected to rake in at least $40 million during its second weekend in release as a handful of school kids are now on spring break. 

Meanwhile, both "Burt Wonderstone" and "The Call" are likely to start off with around $15 million. For weeks, it seemed that "Wonderstone" had the edge over the Halle Berry kidnapping film, but African Americans have recently expressed so much interest in "The Call" that the movie may perform better than initially thought.

"Wonderstone" follows a burned-out, old school Las Vegas magician (Carell) who faces a threat from an edgier street performer (Carrey). While a $15-million opening would normally be considered lackluster, Warner Bros.’ New Line division only spent $32 million to produce the film.

So far, the movie hasn’t received particularly warm reviews, but if audiences like it this weekend, it could generate enough buzz to become a decent performer for the studio. New Line is in need of some good news, as the company is primed to lose tens of millions after its near-$200-million "Jack the Giant Slayer" movie flopped at the box office earlier this month.

After his more recent dramatic turns in films like "Hope Springs" and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," Carell is also returning to broader comedy with "Wonderstone." The 50-year-old veteran of "The Office" has proven to be a relatively reliable box office draw over the last decade, finding the most success as a leading man in 2008's "Get Smart." That action comedy, co-starring Anne Hathaway, sold $230 million worth of tickets worldwide.

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"The Call," meanwhile, stars Berry as a 911 operator trying to rescue a young girl (Abigail Breslin) who has been abducted. Sony Pictures' TriStar label acquired the $15-million film from production company Troika Pictures in late 2012.

The picture could prove to be a modest win for Berry, whose personal life has been in the news more than her professional one since she won a best actress Oscar for her performance in 2001's "Monster's Ball." (Last year, Berry was in the midst of a messy custody battle which played out in the tabloids.)

Without the help of a strong cast around her, the actress has had trouble attracting audiences. While the "X-Men" franchise and the ensemble film "New Year's Eve" have performed well, last year she and Tom Hanks were unable to turn the pricey "Cloud Atlas" into a hit. 


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Amy Kaufman


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