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Movie projector: '2012' will be big domestically, huge worldwide

November 12, 2009 |  2:19 pm

2012 The apocalypse will be felt even stronger overseas than in the U.S.

"2012," Sony Pictures' $200-million disaster movie from genre specialist Roland Emmerich, is on track for strong domestic opening weekend ticket sales of about $55 million, according to people who have seen pre-release surveys.

Internationally, however, where the movie is opening simultaneously in 105 countries, including every major market except Japan, it's on track to do even bigger business. One person familiar with overseas research said it could easily collect $90 million from foreign territories, meaning the movie will quite possibly gross more than $140 million through Sunday around the world.

All six movies directed by Emmerich since 1994's "Stargate" have done between 63% and 66% of their total box office revenue overseas, with the exception of United States-centric picture "The Patriot."

The film has already racked up about $7.2 million from early openings in Belgium, France, Poland and Thailand. The French opening was the second biggest first day ever for a non-sequel. In Thailand, it had the biggest opening day of any film this year.

"2012" represents a huge investment for Sony, given the movie's substantial marketing costs beyond its outsized production budget. It's also a risky one given that big budget action/adventure movies are rarely released in November, a time of year that's usually home to family movies. The notable recent exceptions  have been the last two James Bond movies, 2006's "Casino Royale" and 2008's "Quantum of Solace," which opened to $47 million and $68 million domestically, respectively.

The movie's marketing has mixed disaster imagery with a campaign that plays off Mayan legends that the world will end in the year 2012. Even NASA has gotten in on the game, setting up a Web Q-and-A titled "2012: Beginning of the End or Why the World Won't End?"

Reviews for the movie have been mixed so far. As with any major tentpole release, early audience buzz will be crucial. A huge opening day is all but assured, but if word of mouth is bad, receipts for "2012" could fall quickly.

The only other movie opening nationwide this weekend is Focus Features' "Pirate Radio." Released last spring by Working Title Pictures in the United Kingdom, where the movie takes place, as "The Boat That Rocked," it performed very poorly. Director Richard Curtis recut the movie in hopes of a better response in the U.S.

The movie stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a DJ for an illegal rock-and-roll radio station broadcasting from an offshore ship. It's launching in only 882 theaters, meaning a modest gross of $3 million to $4 million is likely. Focus is hoping to start there and continue racking up solid ticket sales through the holiday.

One of the biggest box office stories will be the expansion of "Precious" to 174 theaters and five new cities (Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington). Last weekend in just 18 theaters in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Atlanta, it collected a record-breaking $1.9 million. Its performance this weekend will be an important test of whether the award-winning but dark film plays strongly beyond a small but devoted group of upscale independent movie fans and African Americans, particularly African American women.

Fox's stop-motion animated film "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," directed by Wes Anderson, also hits theaters this weekend, starting off at just four locations in Los Angeles and New York.

Disney is hoping for a very modest drop for "A Christmas Carol" after its weak $30-million domestic debut last weekend. The studio has said it expects the movie, which cost nearly $200 million to produce, to play strongly through at least Thanksgiving, if not Christmas.

--Ben Fritz

Photo: Morgan Lily, Amanda Peet, Liam James and a lot of stuff falling down in "2012." Credit: Columbia Pictures

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