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'Robin Hood' taking on 'Iron Man 2' at b.o.

"Robin Hood," left, "Letters to Juliet" and "Just Wright" are this weekend's wide openers.

VIDEO: Crowe film not expected to usurp Downey's sequel

Russell Crowe rides into movie theaters this weekend wearing a leather hood, but a certain Robert Downey Jr. starrer maintains a tight rein on the marketplace and should pack the most boxoffice in its quiver.

Universal debuts Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" on Friday as the Paramount-distributed "Iron Man 2" begins its second-frame assault on multiplexes. Both are action pics -- the rookie with historical-drama overtones, the holdover a quintessential comics-based sequel -- so it will bear watching whether one or both get bruised by the audience overlap.

Midweek grosses have remained strong for "Iron 2," which suggests the Marvel Studios pic should avoid dropping more than 60% from its opening tally and ring up $50 million-plus this session. Tracking surveys have "Robin" bowing in the $40 million-$45 million range.

Uni insists that tax credits on the U.K. production kept its negative cost to $155 million despite reports of higher figures. Co-starring Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian, "Robin" opens simultaneously around the world, with execs expecting a significantly foreign-weighted global bow.

Early reviews have been mostly positive though hardly fervid. The studio is marketing the PG-13 pic, which opened the Festival de Cannes on Wednesday, as a broadly appealing actioner.

"The target audience is across the board, but the strongest interest is with older and younger males," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said.

Other wide openers Friday include Summit Entertainment's female-targeting "Letters to Juliet," a wannabe crowd-pleaser of a romantic drama -- provided it's a mostly female crowd.

Summit produced the pic for an estimated $30 million and presold foreign territories heavily to offset its cost exposure. The PG pic's cast includes Amanda Seyfried ("Mamma Mia!") and Vanessa Redgrave, with Gary Winick ("13 Going on 30") directing.

The more than 880 sneak previews offered on Mother's Day were 75% full, with 75% of patrons surveyed saying they would "definitely recommend" the film, so positive word-of-mouth among early patrons could help negate the effect of downbeat early reviews from critics. "Letters" should bank a sum in the mid-teen millions through Sunday.

Fox Searchlight's romantic comedy "Just Wright," starring Queen Latifah, Common and Pam Grier, is tracking best with urban moviegoers and should open with $8 million-$10 million from 1,828 playdates. Searchlight spent slightly more than $12 million to produce the PG-rated pic.

Industrywide, the weekend will be compared with last year $137 million session topped by the $46.2 million bow of Sony's "Angels & Demons."

Year-to-date, industry b.o. is outpacing a similar portion of last year by 7%, with $3.67 billion. But Hollywood's seasonal comparison will continue to lag summer 2009, which kicked off a week earlier.