Animated tentpole The Croods is all but assured of winning the weekend box office race with a projected $40 million-$45 million in a key test for Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation following the poor showing of Rise of the Guardians.
That would put Croods on par with DWA's successful How to Train Your Dragon, which opened to $43.7 million on roughly the same weekend in 2010, but well behind the $70.2 million debut of Universal's Dr. Seuss' The Lorax in early March last year.
In recent months, animated films haven't been opening to the levels of Lorax or other event titles, which routinely bowed to $60 million or higher. Disney's Wreck-It-Ralph debuted to $49 million in November, while Sony's Hotel Transylvania opened with $42.5 million in September. Both those films had strong legs; thanks to spring break and the Easter holiday, Croods is hoping for the same.
Ditto for overseas, where Croods makes an aggressive push this weekend.
Croods -- voiced by Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds -- is the first DWA title to be distributed and marketed by 20th Century Fox per its deal with Katzenberg's company. The film cost at least $135 million to produce, excluding a hefty worldwide marketing spend.
Box office observers suggest that Croods could overperform since there has been a dearth of family product in the marketplace.
Croods is hardly the only new offering. Antoine Fuqua's White House action-thriller Olympus Has Fallen, starring Gerard Butler, and Focus Features' Tina Fey-Paul Rudd comedy Admission also debut, while raunchy R-rated comedy Spring Breakers expands nationwide.
Distributed by FilmDistrict, the R-rated Olympus Has Fallen is expected to open in the $20 million range and could beat Oz the Great and Powerful for No. 2.
In the film, Butler -- who has suffered a string of box office duds -- plays a disgraced presidential guard who is called back into action when North Korean terrorists take over the White House. Roland Emmerich's White House Down, opening in June, is similarly themed.
Olympus Has Fallen, also starring Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo and Ashley Judd, is tracking best with males. FilmDistrict's broad marketing campaign included promoting the film on military bases, including Camp Pendleton outside San Diego.
Millennium Films produced and financed Olympus Has Fallen, which cost at least $70 million to produce.
Directed by Paul Weitz (About a Boy), Admission was produced by Focus for a modest $13 million and is expected to open in the $8 million-$9 million range. The film tells the story of a straitlaced Princeton University admissions officer (Fey) whose life takes an unexpected turn when she makes a recruiting trip to an alternative high school run by a former classmate.
On the opposite end of the comedy spectrum is Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, starring James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson. From A24 Films, the R-rated comedy scored the best limited release of the year last weekend when opening in three theaters. Spring Breakers takes the nationwide plunge this weekend and will play in more than 1,100 locations.
There are a slew of limited openings, including festival indie darling The Sapphires and InAPPropriate Comedy, starring Rob Schneider, Lindsay Lohan and Adrien Brody.