Movie Projector: 'Priest' to flop, 'Bridesmaids' looks decent, but 'Thor' will pound both
Of the two newcomers, the female-driven comedy "Bridesmaids," starring "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kristen Wiig, will have the strongest launch.
The Judd Apatow-produced movie is expected to collect $15 million to $17 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
But the 3-D "Priest," which stars Paul Bettany as a clergyman who hunts vampires in a dystopian future, is expected to flop and take in only about $11 million on opening weekend. The picture, which cost about $60 million to make, is the most expensive production to date from Sony Pictures' Screen Gems label.
It's unlikely that even "Bridesmaids" will come close to selling as many tickets as "Thor," whose North American tally already stands at more than $80 million. If the film's business drops 60% this weekend -- which would be typical for a big-budget action movie -- it would still bring in more than $25 million.
"Bridesmaids," which so far garnered a strong 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, was produced by Universal Pictures and Relativity Media for $32.5 million. The movie, about an eclectic group of women preparing for their friend's wedding, is generating solid interest among older females. It will serve as a test of star Wiig's box-office clout. Though the actress has been recognized for her scene-stealing roles in other comedies, including Apatow's "Knocked Up," this film will mark her debut as a leading lady.
The movie will also be a referendum on Apatow's popularity. The filmmaker -- who became a sensation in the comedy world after his 2005 picture "40 Year Old Virgin" brought in $177.4 million worldwide -- has in recent years failed to replicate that same level of box-office success.
The last three films he's been involved with -- "Year One," "Funny People" and "Get Him to the Greek" -- all opened to less than $23 million, and none surpassed $100 million globally. Of those films, "Greek," which he produced, did the best, ultimately grossing $91.4 million worldwide.
"Priest" is the second big-budget movie from Screen Gems, which typically spends less than $30 million making its pictures. The distributor took a gamble on last fall's release of "Burlesque," a $55-million musical starring Cher and Christina Aguilera, which brought in only a modest $89.3 million worldwide.
In any case, "Priest" probably will fare better overseas than it does domestically. It opened last weekend in four foreign markets and took in $5.5 million. This weekend, the picture will launch in an additional 40 countries, including Mexico and France.
In limited release, Pantelion will open “Go for It,” a film about an inner-city female dance group, in 218 theaters. The movie is the third release from the company, a joint venture ofLions Gate Entertainment and Mexico's Televisa whose aim is to make films for Latino audiences.
Roadside Attractions will open "Everything Must Go," starring Will Ferrell, also in 218 theaters. "Hesher," a dark comedy featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman, will open in three California theaters. Meanwhile, Mel Gibson's "The Beaver," which launched to a weak per-theater average last weekend in 22 locations, will expand to 105 theaters.
Top photo: Kristen Wiig stars in "Bridesmaids." Credit: Universal Pictures
Bottom photo: Paul Bettany stars in "Priest." Credit: Screen Gems