By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and friends will destroy two little boys and a young starlet at the box office this weekend.
“The Expendables 2” is expected to easily top the box-office charts with strong ticket sales of $35 million to $40 million, slightly higher than the $34.8 million opening of the first “Expendables” film two years ago.
The animated family film “ParaNorman” should open to half as much: about $18 million for the weekend. That’s about the same as what family fable “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” which launched Wednesday, should take in through Sunday, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
Meanwhile, a remake of “Sparkle,” co-starring the late Whitney Houston, is expected to take in $12 million to $15 million.
The last “Expendables” was Lionsgate’s second-highest-grossing picture ever at the time, ultimately collecting $103 million. Producer Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films moved quickly to make a sequel, spending about $90 million on production. Lionsgate paid about $35 million for rights to release the movie in the U.S., Canada and Britain.
The sequel once again stars a coterie of aging action heroes, including Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Randy Couture. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis all join them this time in prominent roles, along with younger star Liam Hemsworth.
Although the sequel was originally expected to have an opening virtually identical to the first film in the series, tracking surveys showed a jump Thursday, leading some in Hollywood to believe it could outpace its predecessor.
The well-reviewed “ParaNorman” is the second stop-motion film from Oregon animation house Laika Entertainment. Like “Coraline,” the new film was fully financed by Laika, which also paid for advertisements, and is being released by Universal Pictures specialty label Focus Features.
The 3-D picture faces competition for the family audience from “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” although Disney’s family fable is attracting more women and girls, while the horror-themed “ParaNorman” is geared more toward boys.
“Timothy Green,” which cost $25 million to make, opened to $2.3 million on Wednesday. Although reviews have not been great, opening-night audiences liked what they saw, giving it an average grade of A-minus, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
“Sparkle,” meanwhile, is drawing interest mainly from adult women, particularly African Americans. The 1960s period piece — about a young aspiring singer, her two sisters and mother with frustrated show-business dreams of her own — cost only $14 million to make. That means an opening on the high end of expectations should be good for Sony Pictures, whose TriStar label is releasing the film.
This weekend will have the last high-profile movie releases of the summer season. The backers of all four films are hoping that good word of mouth could lead to several weeks of strong box-office results, as few new movies backed by sizable marketing campaigns will hit theaters until mid-September.