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Movie Projector: 'Battle: Los Angeles' will rule, 'Mars Needs Moms' will bomb

March 10, 2011 |  2:20 pm

Aaronwide "Battle: Los Angeles" is expected to wipe out the competition at the box office this weekend, leaving "Mars Needs Moms" searching for any signs of life.

Sony Pictures' "Battle," an alien invasion story starring Aaron Eckhart, should open to domestic ticket sales of $30 million to $35 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

But the biggest news at the box office this weekend will likely be the disastrous debut of "Mars Needs Moms," a big-budget animated movie from Walt Disney Studios that is on track to debut with just $10 million.

The weekend's other new wide release, Warner Bros.' gothic retelling of "Red Riding Hood," will probably collect around $20 million.

"Battle: Los Angeles" was co-financed by Sony and Relativity Media for $77 million, according to a person close to the production, although a Sony spokesperson said the cost was $70 million after tax incentives. The movie, about a Marine platoon's struggle against aliens invading the city, is generating strong interest among men of all ages.

Because the film has an ethnically diverse cast that includes Latina actress Michelle Rodriguez and African American singer Ne-Yo, Sony is hopeful that "Battle: L.A." will attract a large minority audience. The movie is also opening in 33 foreign territories this weekend, including Britain, Russia and Korea.

Marswideimagemoversdigital Less certain is how many will show up to see "Mars Needs Moms," the 3-D performance-capture film about a 9-year-old boy who travels to outer space to save his mother from Martians. The movie was produced by filmmaker Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers Digital, which previously partnered with Disney on 2009's "A Christmas Carol." But the collaboration between the companies ended last year when Disney shut down the Northern California digital production studio and took a write down on its investment.

If projections prove accurate, "Mars Needs Moms" will be one of the biggest box office flops of the year, given its cost of about $150 million. The film is also launching in 15 foreign countries.

"Red Riding Hood," which stars Amanda Seyfried as a strong-willed teenager in a love triangle, is generating solid interest from teenage girls, whom Warner has been courting heavily in its advertising campaign. It's the first movie from director Catherine Hardwicke since 2008's "Twilight," a mega-hit with young females.

Hardwicke said "Red Riding Hood" cost $42 million to produce, meaning its projected debut would be good but not great.

Beyond the new releases, the biggest question is how Paramount's computer-animated "Rango" will hold up on its second weekend in theaters after opening to a so-so $38.1 million. Family animated films typically have smaller declines at the box office than other genres, as parents often wait to hear what people they trust say about the picture.

However, despite primarilly positive reviews, initial audience response to the "Rango" was largely negative: Moviegoers over age 13 gave the film a weak average grade of C-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. If the movie, which stars Johnny Depp as the voice of a chameleon, drops less than 40%, that would bode well for its box office prospects.

In limited release, Focus Features will debut a new adaptation of the 19th century English literary classic "Jane Eyre" starring Mia Wasikowska at two theaters in Los Angeles and two in New York.

-- Amy Kaufman

Photos (from top): Aaron Eckhart stars in "Battle: Los Angeles"; Dan Fogler and Seth Green's animated characters in "Mars Needs Moms." Credit: Sony; ImageMovers Digital.

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