Box Office Preview: Johnny Depp's 'Transcendence' Preparing for Soft U.S. Debut

If pre-release tracking is correct, Johnny Depp's Transcendence may only cross $20 million in its North American debut, a soft start for the $100 million sci-fi epic.

That leaves the Easter weekend box-office race up for grabs. Holdovers Rio 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier each have a shot at coming in ahead of Transcendence, which will have to combat dismal reviews.

Transcendence, marking Depp's first return to theaters since last summer's ill-fated The Lone Ranger, could make up ground overseas, where it is getting a coveted day-and-date release in China.

Alcon Entertainment co-financed the film with China's DMG Entertainment, while Warner Bros. is handling domestic distribution duties. Summit International sold Transcendence overseas to independent distributors, covering much of the budget. Straight Up Films developed the project, and brought it to Alcon.

SUMMER BOX-OFFICE FORECAST: Studio-by-Studio Breakdown

Marking the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister -- a favorite of Christopher Nolan's -- Transcendence stars Depp as a brilliant scientist whose mind is uploaded into a computer after he is gunned down. Rebecca Hall and Morgan Freeman also star, while Nolan and his wife, Emma Thomas, served as executive producers.

Easter weekend sees three other new nationwide offerings -- Christian film Heaven Is For Real, which debuted Wednesday; A Haunted House 2; and Disney documentary Bears.

Sony's TriStar label remains hopeful that Heaven Is For Real will nab more than $20 million in its five-day debut. The movie, starring Greg Kinnear, took in a strong $3.7 million on Wednesday -- enough to top the North American box office.

IM Global's Haunted House 2 is looking like an easy win. The comedy-horror film, reteaming director Michael Tiddes and star Marlon Wayans, could take in more than $15 million for the weekend, although U.S. distributor Open Roads Films is opting for a more conservative $10 million.

Haunted House 2, a follow-up to the 2013 box office hit, cost just $3 million to produce. Wayans co-wrote the script with his longtime filmmaking partner Rick Alvarez.

Bears is expected to open in the $6 million to $7 million range. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, the nature documentary follows a family of grizzly bears living in Alaska. John C. Reilly narrated the film.

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