Movie Projector: 'Puss in Boots' to stomp on competition
The animated fugitive hero of "Puss in Boots" will run away with the box office crown this weekend.
The 3-D film about a swashbuckling cat burglar is expected to gross about $40 million this weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. Distributor Paramount Pictures is anticipating a softer debut of about $35 million.
The two other films debuting in wide release will likely have far more modest debuts. "In Time," a sci-fi action film featuring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, should start off with about $13 million in ticket sales. "The Rum Diary," starring Johnny Depp and based on one of Hunter S. Thompson's novels, is poised to collect between $9 million and $12 million.
The animated star of "Puss in Boots," voiced by Antonio Banderas, first appeared as a sidekick to "Shrek" in DreamWorks Animation's hit franchise about a green ogre. The movie -- financed by DreamWorks for about $130 million -- was first set for release by Paramount on Nov. 4. However, Paramount last month moved the movie's opening up a week in the hopes of attracting family audiences before the onslaught of kid-centric pictures debuting around Thanksgiving, including "The Muppets" and "Happy Feet 2."
The film will likely get off to a slightly worse start than "Megamind," the studio's last fall release, which opened to $46 million last November. Nonetheless, "Puss in Boots" is expected to fare better over the long haul compared with "Megamind," which failed to live up to the success of other DreamWorks films.
"In Time" is being released by 20th Century Fox but was financed by New Regency Pictures for about $40 million. The film -- set in a world in which everyone's biological clock stops at age 25 -- is the latest movie from filmmaker Andrew Niccol, who often explores futuristic topics in his work.
His first movie, 1997's "Gattaca," presented a world in which individuals were judged by their gene pools. The movie -- which he both wrote and directed -- was well-received by critics, but only grossed $12.5 million worldwide. His biggest commercial success was "The Truman Show," starring Jim Carrey. The 1998 film, written by Niccol, collected $264.1 million.
"The Rum Diary" is a passion project for Depp, who was a longtime friend of gonzo journalist Thompson before the writer committed suicide in 2005. Depp has channeled Thompson's spirit on screen before, most notably in 1998's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which flopped at the box office with $10.7 million.
Depp has been traveling to college campuses from Berkeley to Austin to promote the film, which is based on a book that was written by Thompson in 1961 but was not published until 1998. The movie was financed by Graham King's GK Films for about $50 million and is being released by the producer's distribution outfit, FilmDistrict.
Overseas this weekend, Paramount and Sony are releasing "Tintin" in 20 countries including Germany, Spain and Belgium, where the comic book was created 82 years ago. The film is already off to a solid start in France, where it is poised to have a stronger debut than "Shrek" and all of the "Lord of the Rings" films, with a projected $18 million by Sunday. The animated 3-D picture, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, does not premiere in the U.S. for nearly two months.
In limited release, Sony Pictures will open the Shakespeare drama "Anonymous" in 250 theaters. The $30-million movie was initially slated to open nationwide, but after pre-release surveys indicated that the Roland Emmerich-directed film would have a poor debut, the studio scaled back the release last week. Meanwhile, Paramount will open the well-reviewed love story "Like Crazy" in two theaters in both Los Angeles and New York.
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: A scene from the animated "Puss in Boots." Credit: DreamWorks Animation