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Box Office Preview: 'Great Gatsby' Eyeing Strong $40 Million Debut

Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton
"The Great Gatsby"

"Iron Man 3" is expected to stay at No. 1 in its second weekend with $70 million or more; overseas, "Star Trek Into Darkness" opens in its first seven markets.

Classic literature and Baz Luhrmann's uniquely razmatazz style collide this weekend as The Great Gatsby debuts in North America before opening the Cannes Film Festival on May 15.

The other new entry of Mother's Day weekend is Tyler Perry Presents: Peeples, starring Craig Robinson and Kerry Washington. From Lionsgate and produced by Perry, the family wedding comedy is anticipating a soft $10 million debut (Tyler neither stars in nor directed the film).

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Overseas, J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness opens in its first seven markets, a week ahead of its domestic debut. Paramount is determined to build the brand's popularity overseas and intentionally is opening first in those territories where Star Trek worked best in the past, including the U.K., Australia and Germany.

In North America, females of all ages are expected to flock to see Gatsby, drawn in by Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Jay Gatsby, and the tragic love story laid out in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel memorializing the opulence and fickleness of wealth. The 3D film also headlines Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. There's also interest among older males.

Both Gatsby and Peeples are hoping to see a boost from Mother's Day as moms and daughters head together to the multiplex.

Warner Bros. is predicting a $35 million debut -- easily Luhrmann's best -- for Gatsby, but other box-office observers put the number at $40 million or higher.

Either would be a good result, though Iron Man 3 is almost assured of staying at No. 1 in its second weekend with a haul of $70 million or more. Through Wednesday, Iron Man 3 has taken in a mammoth $768 million worldwide; it could easily hit $900 million through Sunday.

Gatsby begins its theatrical assault Thursday night in North America, with online ticketing service Fandango reporting brisk advance sales. Among female-fueled films, Warner Bros.' Sex and the City 2 holds the record for top midnight opening ($3 million), which likewise rolled out in May.

Village Roadshow Pictures co-financed and co-produced Gatsby, which reportedly cost $105 million to make (it would have cost $190 million without hefty Australian location subsidies).

"We are going to have a good weekend," says one Warners insider.

Luhrmann's ebullient take on Fitzgerald's iconic novel is drawing mixed reviews, but it should prove a sizable curiosity. The movie's cast also include Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke.

Luhrmann was previously in theaters with Australia, which debuted to $14.8 million on its way to grossing a soft $49.6 million domestically. It did far better internationally, taking in $161.8 million for a worldwide total of $211.4 million.

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Gatsby, with its modern score and elaborate party scenes, is invariably drawing comparisons to Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!, which grossed $179.2 million globally in 2001.

At the specialty box office, Mud makes another major expansion and will be playing in more than 853 theaters as of Friday. From Roadside Attractions, the indie film, headlining Matthew McConaughey, has grossed a strong $5.2 million to date.

A pair of documentaries open in limited runs: Sarah Polley's autobiographical film Stories We Tell, also from Roadside, and the Serena and Venus Williams documentary Venus and Serena, from Magnolia.