Box office preview: 'Expendables 2' gunning for top spot against 'Sparkle', 'Timothy Green', 'ParaNorman'

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Image Credit: Frank Masi

Two years ago, Sylvester Stallone assembled a leathery crew of aging musclebound action stars for The Expendables, and the $80 million in-your-face action film went on to be a hit, grossing $103.1 million domestically and an explosive $274.5 million worldwide.

For these actors, a sequel wasn’t just an enticing prospect, it was an inevitable one.

Thus, we now have The Expendables 2, which is facing off this weekend against three titles more geared toward families: Paranorman, Sparkle, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. How will these four titles fare at the box office?

Read on for my weekend box office predictions:

1. The Expendables 2 – $38 million
All the guys are back for Expendables 2 — Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, and Ah-nold — but there are a few fresh faces, too. Namely, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and token “let’s bring in the young crowd” actor Liam Hemsworth.

The kitsch factor of seeing all these grizzled action stars in one place is still the franchise’s selling point, and according to BoxOffice.com’s Shawn Robbins, social media activity for the sequel has been substantially stronger than its predecessor, which opened with $34.8 million in August 2010. Adult men will make up the vast majority of the audience and likely drive Expendables 2, which is playing in 3,316 theaters, to about $38 million in its first frame. Lionsgate reportedly acquired the $90 million film from Nu Image for $35 million.

2. Sparkle – $18 million
Though Jordin Sparks is making her acting debut, it is Whitney Houston’s final onscreen performance that will lure in curious moviegoers to see ScreenGems’ 1960s musical family drama Sparkle this weekend. The film, which cost a slim $14 million to make, is getting a narrow release in 2,244 theaters — a common tactic for a movie targeting a predominantly African-American audience (Think Like A Man, another ScreenGems film, started on 2,052 theaters earlier this year) — which should yield a strong per-theater average.

Although tracking and studio expectations have the film earning about $14-15 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period, as Tyler Perry’s titles have proved, movies geared towards an African-American female audience have often been underestimated by industry watchers; Sparkle could be bigger than most expect. I’m going with a rather bullish (feel free to chide me if I’m wrong on Sunday!) $18 million.

3. The Bourne Legacy – $17 million
Last week’s chart topper is facing direct competition from The Expendables 2, plus a lukewarm “B” CinemaScore grade. It may tumble 55 percent to $17 million, which would lift its ten-day total to about $70 million.

4. ParaNorman – $15 million
Focus Features scored with 2009’s Coraline, the dark 3-D animation that quietly earned $75.3 million during its domestic run. The same filmmaking team came together for ParaNorman, another ghoulish take on typically sunny animated fare. ParaNorman won’t have the benefit of the 3-D craze, which really sparked in 2009, on its side the way Coraline did, but it will still earn some cash due to a big 3,429 theater count. Families are spread thin between Odd Life and Sparkle, but ParaNorman, which likely cost somewhere in the $60 million range (the reported budget of Coraline) may scare up $15 million.

5. The Odd Life of Timothy Green – $14 million
The Disney feature, which stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton and was made for just under $25 million, looked like it would become a typical August misfire a few weeks ago, but a hard marketing push has raised awareness for the whimsical tale considerable, and its prospects seem much rosier.

In its Wednesday debut, the film earned $2.3 million, the same number that Hope Springs started with on Wednesday last week before pulling $14.6 million over the weekend. Hope Springs carried a much older audience that waited until the weekend to hit the theater, which resulted in the big boost, but Odd Life may be a bit smaller. Still, thanks to strong word-of-mouth from its “A-” CinemaScore grade, Timothy Green, playing in 2,598 theaters, may blossom to $14 million.

Check EW all weekend long to see how The Expendables 2, Sparkle, ParaNorman, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green fare, and if you want up-to-the-minute box office updates, follow me on Twitter.


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