'Super 8': Paramount Sets Modest Box Office Expectations

8:24 PM PST 06/06/2011 by Pamela McClintock
François Duhamel/Paramount Pictures

The studio is trying to counter buzz that pre-release tracking is soft for the high-profile movie from director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg.

Trying to debunk buzz in Hollywood that pre-release tracking is soft for J.J. Abrams' Super 8, Paramount says the $50 million-budgeted movie doesn't need a big opening weekend because it cost far less than a big studio tentpole.

Paramount has its job cut out for it in managing expectations.

Super 8, opening in theaters Friday, is one of the summer's more high-profile projects because of Abrams and Steven Spielberg, who produced the sci-fi alien pic, set in the late 1970s in a small Ohio town.

VIDEO: Watch a Sneak Peek of 'Super 8'

However, the studio has refrained from showing the creature at the center of the film in trailers or its ad campaign, hoping to build interest in the film among those curious to see its secret revealed. A similar strategy worked well with the Abrams-produced Cloverfield in 2008, but some are questioning whether more should have been shown with Super 8.

Studios typically call reporters late in the week to do box office setup, but Paramount responded to THR's questions early this week because of industry chatter that the film would not open on par with recent summer releases like X-Men: First Class or Thor and that it is tracking behind Warner Bros.' Green Lantern, which doesn't open until June 17.

FILM REVIEW: 'Super 8'

The chatter is correct: Paramount estimates that Super 8 should gross $25 million to $30 million in its domestic debut. However, Paramount argues that other summer films cost three or four times more to make than Super 8; hence, Super 8 doesn't need to gross as much to be in the clear financially.

And it's a misconception to think that Super 8 will play to young moviegoers, at least initially, according to Paramount. 

Super 8 -- Abrams' homage to the films of his childhood, a la Spielberg -- is tracking best among moviegoers over age 30, the demo that remembers such films as Spielberg's E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial or Close Encounters of the Third Kind

As strange as it might seem, the two comps Paramount is using to gauge the film's success are True Grit and Universal's Bridesmaids.

Paramount's True Grit, which was a hit first among older adults, and then broadened out, opened to $24.8 million in December.

More recently, Bridesmaids, which also skewed older in its debut, grossed $26.2 million in its domestic launch (it's gone on to be a sleeper hit, grossing $107.2 million through Sunday). The R-rated female comedy cost $32 million to produce.

After adults, teen girls are the most interested in Super 8, according to tracking. On Sunday night, Abrams, Spielberg and Super 8 stars Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning plugged the movie during the MTV Movie Awards.

Email: Pamela.McClintock@thr.com

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