By Amy Kaufman
2:18 PM CST, February 28, 2013
Fee-fi-fo-fum — Hollywood smells the blood of a box office bum.
Bryan Singer's nearly $200-million production of "Jack the Giant Slayer" is set to debut with a disappointing $25 million this weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The 3-D fantasy adventure, which stars newcomer Nicholas Hoult, has received generally positive reviews but has not attracted nearly the kind of moviegoer interest that it needs to become a domestic hit.
No new release is poised to make a major splash at theaters this weekend. "21 & Over," the R-rated teen comedy from the writers of "The Hangover," will likely start with a decent $15 million. The low-budget horror sequel "The Last Exorcism Part II" could take in a so-so $10 million on its first weekend, while the Cold War thriller "Phantom" will probably tank with a dismal $2 million.
Based on the classic fairytale, "Jack the Giant Slayer" centers on a young farmhand caught in a war with an army of giants. Co-financed by Warner Bros.' New Line division and Legendary Pictures for roughly $190 million, the movie required costly special effects and a 100-day-long shoot outside of London in 2011.
The film was originally set for release last June but was postponed because the filmmakers needed more time to complete the digital effects.
Even if the picture generates strong word-of-mouth, it will have to face off against another family film next weekend — "Oz: The Great and Powerful" — which may have a massive opening of at least $75 million.
Warner Bros. is banking on "Jack" performing well overseas, where it seems to be generating a decent amount of interest, particularly in Russia and the United Kingdom. This weekend, the film debuts in Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan but will open in most major international markets in mid-March.
"21 and Over" is the directorial debut for Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also co-wrote the film. The movie shares a handful of similiarities with the raunchy comedy that made the duo successful — 2009's "The Hangover." Both films follow three guys over the course of a drunken night full of debauchery, but "21 & Over" is set on a college campus while "The Hangover" takes place at a Las Vegas bachelor party.
The movie features three new young actors, Miles Teller, Skylar Astin and Justin Chon. It was financed for around $13 million by distributor Relativity Media and a consortium of Chinese companies, including Huaxia Film Distribution Co. In exchange for the Chinese funding, a version of the film that includes scenes painting the American college experience in a questionable light will soon be released in the Asian country.
The original "The Last Exorcism" was a modest surprise hit in 2010, when it opened to $20.4 million and ultimately collected $41 million for Lionsgate. CBS Films acquired the $4-million sequel from the film's producers at Strike Entertainment last year for around $3 million. Even though the second film doesn't seem likely to make nearly as much as the original, CBS will likely end up in decent financial shape because its investment in the movie was so low.
The sequel, not screened in advance of its release for critics, follows a young women (Ashley Bell) possessed by an evil force.
"Phantom," starring Ed Harris and David Duchovny, centers on a Russian submarine that threatens to start an international nuclear incident. The movie, being released by independent distributor and production company RCR Media Group, could post one of the lowest openings ever for a film debuting nationwide.
Meanwhile, it's unlikely that any of last weekend's Oscar winners will see huge bumps at the box office because the majority of them have been in release for at least two months. "Argo," which took the best picture prize, hit theaters in October and has since collected an impressive $130 million. Still, Warner Bros. is hoping the movie still has a bit more gas in the tank and is expanding it from 802 theaters to 985 this weekend.