Jon M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliation is easily in the lead as Easter weekend gets underway for a possible four-day North American debut just north of $45 million.
G.I. Joe -- with a cast led by franchise newcomers Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis -- got a jump on the holiday frame by opening Thursday. The Paramount picture took in $10.5 million on its first day and scored a promising A- CinemaScore.
Based on early Friday returns, box office observers are projecting that G.I. Joe could gross in the $14 million range for the day, putting its weekend gross at roughly $36 million and four-day debut at $46 million.
Moviegoing is strong on Good Friday and Saturday, slowing somewhat on Easter Sunday. "Let's root for a "Great" not Good Friday," quipped one Paramount insider.
Still, G.I. Joe won't likely match the $54.7 million domestic opening of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but that film was released during the summer play period in early August 2009. The film (earning a B+ CinemaScore) ultimately took in $150.2 million domestically and $152.3 million internationally for a total $302.5 million.
G.I. Joe also is opening in most international markets (75 percent) and is anticipating a global opening in the $100 million range. Paramount financed and produced the film with MGM and Skydance Productions in association with Hasbro. Producers are Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Brian Goldner.
D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce and Ray Stevenson also star.
G.I. Joe was originally set to open last summer, but the studio pushed back the release in order to convert it to 3D and refashion Channing Tatum's role. Originally, his character was killed off, but after the star's box-office status surged thanks to The Vow and 21 Jump Street, Paramount and its partners decided to make the character's fate more ambiguous.
Paramount already is anticipating that G.I. Joe will hit $200 million internationally, notably more than the original.
The studio says it minimized its risk overall by keeping G.I. Joe's budget to roughly $130 million; Cobra cost at least $175 million. Paramount put up half the money for the sequel, while MGM and David Ellison's Skydance each put up a 25 percent share.
Opening on Good Friday are writer-director Tyler Perry's Temptation -- a marked departure from the filmmaker's comedic fare -- and director Andrew Niccol's sci-fi thriller The Host, adapted from Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's novel.
Temptation, from Lionsgate, is doing solid business so far for a projected three-day debut in the $21 million range. The film stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Friday Night Lights) as a restless marriage counselor who begins a dangerous affair with a mogul. Smollett-Bell stars opposite Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams and Robbie Johns.
Lionsgate targeted women and African-Americans in marketing the film. The studio also took advantage of Kardashian's celebrity profile.
It is the fourth Perry film that Lionsgate has released over Easter weekend.
The Host, starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons and Jake Abel, is pacing to open in the $18 million to $20 million range. Open Road Films is distributing the film on behalf of producers Nick Wechsler, Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz and Inferno Entertainment. Meyer also is a producer and has tirelessly promoted the project, which marks her first post-Twilight outing.
Set in a society where parasitic aliens known as "Souls" inhabit humans, The Host is appealing primarily to females (Meyer's fan base). The story follows a "Soul" who finds it impossible to entirely banish the human girl she inhabits.
DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox's animated family event pic The Croods will beat both Temptation and The Host for No. 2 with a projected weekend gross as high as $30 million. The 3D toon opened to $43.6 million and has done strong midweek business for a domestic total of $62.1 million.