A trio of R-rated pics enter an already saturated marketplace for adult fare this weekend, with new 3D entry Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters expected to top the domestic chart with an opening in the $25 million range or better.
Paramount and MGM partnered on the $50 million action-comedy, starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the famous siblings. In this more violent rendition, Hansel and Gretel are witch hunters. Written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, the movie's producers include Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
Hansel and Gretel, originally set to be released last year, is tracking best among younger males and females.
That could pose a problem for raunchy sketch comedy Movie 43, the brainchild of Peter Farrelly and featuring one of the most ambitious ensemble casts ever put together. The roster of stars includes Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Halle Berry, Gerard Butler and Naomi Watts. A raft of filmmakers and talent directed the various vignettes, including Elizabeth Banks, Brett Ratner, Griffin Dunne and Bob Odenkirk.
Movie 43 is projected to open in the $8 million to $10 million range. Similar to Hansel and Gretel, the film is tracking best among younger adults and older teens. Relativity Media spent less than $10 million to make Movie 43 and says it was a creative risk worth taking.
The third new entry of the weekend is action-thriller Parker, pairing Jason Statham with Jennifer Lopez. Directed by Taylor Hackford (Ray), Parker might open only in the $7 million to $8 million range, in line with Statham's previous movie, Safe Haven. FilmDistrict is distributing the pic domestically.
Not only do Movie 43 and Parker face competition from Hansel and Gretel, they also have to compete with a crop of strong holdovers, including Universal's horror pic Mama and a number of best picture Oscar contenders.
Mama, starring Jessica Chastain, is widely predicted to come in No. 2 in its second weekend and should continue to benefit from being rated PG-13. The film's gross through Wednesday was $34.7 million.
Chastain also stars in Oscar best picture contender Zero Dark Thirty, which could come in third. (She also is up for best actress at the Academy Awards next month.) Her films took the top two spots last week.
Observers will be watching this weekend to see how Zero Dark Thirty fares as its makes its first major overseas push, opening in a raft of major markets including the U.K. It has done good business in Spain already, earning $3 million to date.
Fellow best picture contender Lincoln also makes its first major foray internationally, where 20th Century Fox is releasing the drama. Foreign audiences will see a slightly different version of the film; special title cards have been added at the beginning contextualizing the uniquely American story.
More and more, Academy Award nominations can boost a film at the international box office, much as in the U.S. Last weekend, best picture contender Django Unchained opened just north of $48 million overseas.
Parker also opens in a number of international territories, where it was sold off to local distributors.