Channing Tatum, left, and Dwayne Johnson are shown in a scene from "G.I.… (Jaimie Trueblood / AP )
The soldiers of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" will unleash havoc this weekend, stopping some cavemen dead in their tracks.
The Channing Tatum-Bruce Willis action sequel is expected to gross between $45 million and $50 million through Easter Sunday, according to those who've seen pre-release surveys.
Financed by Paramount, MGM and Skydance, and released by Paramount, the 3-D film has the benefit of a full slate of Thursday screenings as well as showings on a handful of screens Wednesday night, which have already garnered the movie $2.2 million.
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The action-figure adaptation will easily top "The Croods," DreamWorks Animation's caveman comedy, which opened last weekend to a solid $43.7 million. The animated film will battle it out for second place this weekend with Lionsgate’s "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor," a rare Tyler Perry drama that also marks an even rarer feature acting turn by Kim Kardashian. She plays a temptress in the thriller-tinged picture.
The films are expected to tally about $20 million each, according to people who've seen the pre-release surveys.
Heading for a likely fourth-place finish is the supernatural/sci-fi tale "The Host," the first cinematic adaptation from "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer not connected to her vampire blockbuster. Directed by Andrew Niccol and costing an estimated $50 million, "The Host," which stars Saiorse Ronan as a young woman who refuses to let an alien invader take over her mind, is forecast to open with $15 million to $18 million for independent studio Open Road.
But the big question this weekend will be "G.I. Joe," which cost its backers an estimated $140 million to produce. Like its predecessor, it looks at elite soldiers fighting the evil forces of Cobra, and features Tatum as Duke and Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock. Four years ago, the original opened to $54.7 million in the somewhat heavier August moviegoing season, though that film did not have the benefit of 3-D ticket prices.
Paramount made several switches after the modest success of Stephen Sommers' 2009 effort -- which made $302 million in global box office on a production budget of nearly $200 million).
For the new tale, director Jon Chu -- best known for music-themed films such as "Step Up 3D" and "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" -- took the reins. Paramount also surprised some in the industry by pushing the release date nine months from June 2012 in order to allow for a conversion to 3-D, despite the fact that a Super Bowl ad and other marketing had already rolled out.
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The production also added Willis this time around, in the hope of giving it more name-brand cachet, and hired "Zombieland" scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to write the script.
The movie will also open this weekend in 53 foreign markets, where the studio hopes the international appeal of its cast and the general performance of the action genre provide a boost.
Meanwhile, "Temptation," which centers on a torrid love triangle gone wrong, provides another opportunity for Perry to move outside his trademark comedies.
He has not always fared well in that realm: His last such attempt, October's "Alex Cross," underperformed with just $25 million at the domestic box office, though in February 2012, his romantic drama "Good Deeds" performed slightly better, with $35 million.
Last weekend’s second-place movie, the White House-destruction thriller "Olympus Has Fallen," is expected to stay true to its name, dropping significantly in the face of the similarly targeted "G.I. Joe."