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Movie Projector: Will 'Wimpy Kid' put 'Sucker Punch' on the ropes?

March 24, 2011 |  1:33 pm

Suckerpunch "Sucker Punch," a film about five girls who kick butt, could take a blow at the box office this weekend from an unlikely competitor: A "Wimpy Kid."

At the moment, it's too close to call. Both movies -- director Zack Snyder's latest action film and the family sequel "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules," based on a popular children's book -- are on track to open with between $20 million and $25 million, according to people who have seen prerelease audience surveys.

But there's far more at stake financially for "Sucker Punch," about a posse of strong-willed young women trying to escape from an insane asylum. The movie is generating strong interest from Snyder's largely male fan base, but they may not be able to lift its opening above the low to mid-20s, which would be a soft start for the film, co-financed by Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures at a cost of $82 million.

Snyder's last two movies weren't exactly blockbusters, falling dramatically short of the success of his March 2007 surprise hit "300," which opened to $70.9 million. His most recent release, the family movie "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole," based on the childrens' book, opened last fall with just $16.1 million and went on to gross only $55.7 million domestically. His 2009 comic book adaptation, "Watchmen," had a stronger debut of $55.2 million, but was ultimately not the hit that Warner Bros. had hoped.

The performance of "Sucker Punch," the first movie Snyder has written and directed that's not based on an existing property, is important for the filmmaker. His stock with audiences means a lot to Warner Bros., which has tapped Snyder to direct its upcoming Superman film. The studio is hoping the picture will spawn a new lucrative franchise to succeed its Harry Potter series, which comes to a close with a July release.

Overseas, "Sucker Punch" will also open this weekend in 23 foreign markets, including Italy, Spain, Taiwan and Mexico.

If the "Wimpy Kid" sequel does well, 20th Century Fox will have successfully launched a new franchise of its own. The original film, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," released in March of last year, did surprisingly well for the studio, opening to $22.1 million and ultimately grossing $64 million domestically. The film cost just over $19 million to make.

Zacharygordondevonbostick The second installment in the series, which centers on a middle-school student's relationship with his older brother, was produced for around $21 million. Though the movie's target audience is young boys, the film is also generating some interest from teenage girls who have expressed a desire to see a new tween actor featured in the movie, Devon Bostick.

It remains to be seen how many kids will turn up to see the movie this weekend, however. When the first film opened last year, more children were out on spring break, meaning the bump in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday this year could be lower.

The movie will open in its first foreign market, Australia, in mid-April.

In limited release, The Weinstein Co. will open Julian Schnabel's "Miral" in four theaters. After the distributor filed an appeal with the MPAA earlier this month, the movie about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had its rating downgraded from an R to a PG-13.

In other ratings news, the Weinstein Co. said Thursday morning it would release a PG-13 version of best picture winner "The King's Speech" next weekend. A cut of the film without any swearing will replace the current R-rated version in 1,000 theaters on April 1. The movie starring lead actor Oscar winner Colin Firth is still making money: Last weekend, the film grossed about $2 million, bringing its total domestic tally to $132.5 million.

-- Amy Kaufman

Top photo: (from left) Jena Malone, Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish star in "Sucker Punch." Credit: Warner Bros.

Bottom photo: (from left) Zachary Gordon and Devon Bostick star in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules." Credit: 20th Century Fox.

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