Box Office Report: Will Smith's 'After Earth' No Match for 'Fast 6'

"After Earth."
"After Earth."
 Columbia Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth could be headed for one of the lowest summer openings for a Will Smith film as it faces tough competition from box office hit Fast and Furious 6, which is poised to stay at No. 1 in its second weekend with a gross of $50 million or more.

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The sci-fi epic -- a passion project for Smith and based on his original story -- is more of a starring vehicle for Jaden Smith, the actor's son, with Smith's character sitting out of much of the action. Smith's Overbrook Films produced the father-son adventure for Sony.

Based on pre-release tracking, After Earth is pacing to gross $35 million to $40 million, in line with the debut of Tom Cruise sci-fi adventure Oblivion earlier this year. Sony believes this would be a great result, considering After Earth is an original title, as was Oblivion.

After Earth, costing $130 million to produce, opens in a much more crowded corridor, and a domestic debut of $35 million to $40 million would come in well below the usual opening for a summer film starring Smith. Last year, Men in Black 3 opened to $54.6 million, while Hancock scored a $62.6 million debut in summer 2008. Nor would it match the $55.7 million dollar opening of Karate Kid, also starring Jaden Smith, in June 2010.

So far, the film has so far received dismal reviews (Sony held off screening After Earth for critics until late Wednesday in order to not reveal too much of the plot).

FILM REVIEW: After Earth

Sony is hoping to lure families because of After Earth's storyline, which revolves around a distant father and his son crash-landing on a deserted Earth. When the father is left injured, the son must set out on his own to find a rescue beacon that was lost when their space ship crashed.

After Earth, rated PG-13, is tracking well with families and African Americans.

The movie begins opening in earnest overseas over the course of the next two weeks. Smith remains a mega-star internationally.

The weekend's other new offering is magician heist pic Now You See Me, from Summit Entertainment. Directed by Louis Leterrier, the indie pic's ensemble cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco.

Now You See Me is expected to open in the $15 million to $17 million range, but some box office observers believe the film could surprise and cross $20 million. On Thursday, online ticketing service Fandango was selling more tickets for Now You See Me than for After Earth. Now You See Me cost under $80 million to produce, with a significant portion of the budget offset through foreign presales.

New offering at the specialty box office include Zal Batmangli's The East, which Fox Searchlight opens in four theaters, and The Kings of Summer, from CBS Films.

Twitter: @PamelaDayM

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