'2012' set to explode at boxoffice

Roland Emmerich's disaster flick eyes as much as $65 million

The end of the world starts Friday.

Sony's apocalyptic actioner "2012" totes a $200 million negative cost and hefty marketing expenses. Fortunately for the studio, prerelease interest seems to be solid and broad, with teen males displaying the most fervent must-see sentiment.

Helmed by Roland Emmerich ("The Day After Tomorrow") and starring John Cusack and Woody Harrelson, the effects-laden pic is being distributed in 105 global territories simultaneously with its domestic bow; Japan and a handful of smaller territories will get the tentpole next week. An opening in the $55 million-$65 million range looks doable, judging from tracking surveys.

The film's 158-minute running time will challenge theater owners seeking to program the usual number of performances in individual auditoriums. Early reviews have praised the PG-13 pic's splashy digital disaster scenes, if not its more pedestrian script, and Sony execs are cautiously optimistic about opening prospects for "2012."

"Tracking is terrific, not just in the U.S. but everywhere in the world -- and this is a worldwide play for us," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "We're excited about our weekend."

Also Friday, Focus unspools the Working Title-produced comedy "Pirate Radio" in about 900 theaters.

Rated R, "Radio" features Philip Seymour Hoffman as a colorful DJ and Bill Nighy as his station owner, and Kenneth Branagh wears the black hat as a British government minister looking to silence their unlicensed-but-beloved broadcast operation.

Helmed and penned by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually"), "Radio" looks headed for a bow in the low- to mid-single-digit millions. Produced for a reported $50 million, the film raised a disappointing $28.3 million in foreign boxoffice during the summer, including $10.1 million in U.K. coin.

Elsewhere, Lionsgate on Friday expands the gritty, inspirational drama "Precious" to 170 playdates in five additional markets after an auspicious debut in 18 locations in four cities the previous weekend.

If the sophomore session goes as well as hoped, Lionsgate likely will tiptoe into wide release, with the critically praised pic getting about 600 engagements starting Nov. 20. Execs want to be careful to let word-of-mouth kick in, but the platform campaign should get a nice lift once awards-season publicity takes hold.

Collectively, this weekend's theatrical releases will be compared with a $148.6 million frame last year that was topped by the $67.5 million opening of Sony's 007 actioner "Quantum of Solace."

Year to date, 2009 boxoffice is running 4.6% ahead of the same portion of last year at $8.5 billion.
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