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Movie Projector: Costly 'Green Lantern' hopes to shine in its box office debut

June 16, 2011 |  2:35 pm

"Green Lantern," one of the most expensive movies to be released this year, will need to use all of its super powers if it is to be profitable for Warner Bros.

The 3-D film based on the popular DC Comics property cost the Burbank studio more than $200 million to produce and will probably get off to a decent start on its first weekend in theaters with an expected $60 million to $65 million in ticket sales. The studio, however, said it believes the picture will open to no more than $58 million.

For family audiences, the PG-rated "Mr. Popper's Penguins," inspired by the classic 1930s children's book and starring Jim Carrey, will probably open to about $16 million, according to those who have seen the pre-release audience surveys. Twentieth Century Fox said it is expecting a slightly more conservative opening of $12 million to $15 million.

Meanwhile, although overall box office revenue has improved since getting off to a dismal start this year, business is still down from 2010. As of last weekend, ticket sales for 2011 had dropped roughly 7% compared with last year, while attendance was off about 8%.

After finding success with more recognizable DC properties like "Batman" and "Superman," Warner Bros. is hoping that the lesser-known “Green Lantern” will also be able to spawn a major superhero franchise.

With the release of "Green Lantern," the studio is hoping to become more competitive with rival Marvel Studios, which has recently released well-received films such as two "Iron Man" pictures and "Thor." Marvel and distributor Paramount Pictures will release "Captain America: The First Avenger" next month.

But so far, "Green Lantern" has received largely negative reviews and had only a 22% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of Thursday afternoon. Early trailers for the film were largely criticized by the movie's fanboy audience, although new footage was more warmly received in April at Wonder Con in San Francisco.

Word of mouth will be an important factor in the film's ultimate success both here and abroad as the studio is also spending more than $125 million to market it worldwide. 

Penguins "Mr. Popper's Penguins," in which Carrey stars as a businessman who lives with a family of the aquatic birds, is generating the most interest from young girls.

But if projections are correct, the film will probably have a soft opening domestically. Fox spent about $68 million to make the movie, according to one person connected to the production. However, the studio insists the cost was actually $57 million.

Still, "Mr. Popper's Penguins" -- which is opening this weekend in five foreign markets including Singapore -- could make up some of its costs overseas because Carrey's films typically do good business internationally.

The star's last film, 2009's "A Christmas Carol," made $187.4 million of its $325.3 million total haul abroad.

In limited release, Fox's specialty film unit Fox Searchlight will open "The Art of Getting By" in 610 theaters nationwide. The film, starring young actors Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, where it received mixed critical response.

-- Amy Kaufman


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Top photo: Blake Lively rests her head on Ryan Reynolds' shoulder in "Green Lantern." Credit: Warner Bros.

Bottom photo: Jim Carrey stars in "Mr Popper's Penguins." Credit: 20th Century Fox.