'Despicable Me' eyes $30-35 million bow

"Despicable Me," left, and "Predators"

VIDEO: 'Predators' also opens wide this weekend

They say things worth doing aren't always easy, and that maxim seems well applied to the coming boxoffice weekend.

Friady's two wide openers are freighted with the creative ambitions of their respective distributors, and both are tracking well: Universal dives into 3D animation for the first time with "Despicable Me," and Fox dusts off a decades-old fright franchise with "Predators."

"Despicable" was produced by one-time Fox animation exec Chris Meledandri, who's been charged with creating a toon unit at Uni. Representing a first feature credit for co-directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, the PG pic's voice cast includes Russell Brand, Jason Segel and Steve Carell.

At least 1,500 of 3,476 theaters playing the pic will show "Despicable" in 3D. Tracking surveys show strong family interest, with "Despicable" fetching a winsome $30 million-$35 million through Sunday.

"It's tracking very well with both boys and girls," Uni distribution topper Nikki Rocco said. "I think it's of equal, family appeal."

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"Despicable" totes an estimated negative cost of $69 million. That's a relatively modest sum for an animated production, let alone one representing the maiden mission for a new production unit.

Production costs on "Predators" were even lower on the bargain-basement scale at an estimated $38 million. Starring Adrien Brody as a mercenary abducted by alien creatures, the Robert Rodriguez-produced horror thriller is the latest installment in a franchise dating to 1987's "Predator."

Nimrod Antal ("Armored") directed the R-rated pic, which co-stars Topher Grace, Alice Braga and Laurence Fishburne.

"We have a male target audience that still remembers the original 'Predator' fondly and are ready for the next one," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said.

Though Fox is hoping for a big enough opening to warrant additional franchise installments, the studio isn't looking for a home run so much as a single or double. Tracking data suggest a $20 million "Predators" bow, and that should get the job done.

Holdover action also bears watching this weekend, as Summit's "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" and Paramount's "The Last Airbender" hit sophomore sessions after big bows during the Independence Day frame.

Each has a shot at landing in one of this weekend's medal positions. "Eclipse" is likely to fetch $30 million or so in its second weekend and vie for one of the top two positions as "Airbender" tries to outmuscle "Predators" for the bronze.

Among limited openers, Focus Features drama "The Kids Are All Right," starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo, unspools in seven theaters. "Kid" will play in three New York locations and one each in L.A., Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto.

Industrywide, the weekend will be compared with a $143 million session last year topped by the $30.6 million bow of Universal's R-rated comedy "Bruno."
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