Box Office: 'Need for Speed' Slowing, Faces Close Race With 'Peabody & Sherman'

Among other new entries, "Veronica Mars" is doing nicely in its limited theatrical debut; Tyler Perry's "Single Moms Night Out" performing on the softer side so far.

Aaron Paul's new 3D racing pic Need for Speed is slowing down at the Friday box office, putting it in a close contest with holdover Mr. Peabody & Sherman for the weekend crown.

Pre-release tracking had suggested Need for Speed, from DreamWorks and Disney's Touchstone label, would be the victor with a $25 million to $30 million opening. But early Friday box office returns suggest it may debut in the $22 million range, if not lower. Its projected Friday take, including $1.1 million in Friday, is $6.5 million-plus.

Need for Speed, costing $66 million to make and aiming to launch a franchise, hopes to do sizeable business overseas, where it is likewise making a major push this weekend, including in China.

STORY: Aaron Paul Didn't Want to Make 'Another Video-Game Movie'

The movie opens at a crucial time for Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider's DreamWorks. The company is at a time of transition, with Snider being wooed for a top job at 20th Century Fox. And DreamWorks is coming off of two box-office misses, The Fifth Estate and Delivery Man.

Need for Speed, directed by Scott Waugh, is adapted from the wildly popular Electronic Arts game, which has racked up sales in the $4 billion range. Paul -- looking to propel his role Breaking Bad into a movie career -- plays Tobey Marshall, who sets off on a cross-country race to avenge the death of a friend. Imax is carrying the film, which should prove a boost to the bottom line, although poor reviews could hurt the movie's staying power.

DreamWorks Animation and Fox's Peabody is holding up nicely in its second weekend, and could take in more than $6 million on Friday for a weekend gross also in the $22 million range. The 3D animated tentpole's domestic total through Thursday was $42 million.

Sequel 300: Rise of an Empire should come in No. 3 for the weekend with $18 million or $19 million.

The weekend's other new nationwide entry is Lionsgate's female-centric The Single Moms Club, which is likewise performing softer than expected. Friday results suggest it may only open in the $12 million to $13 million range for the weekend, versus north of $15 million. That could change if Saturday traffic surges.

Directed and written by Tyler Perry, the comedy hopes to draw a diverse audience and stars Nia Long, Amy Smart, Cocoa Brown, Terry Crews, William Levy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Perry.

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One film making headlines this weekend is Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars, the feature based on the Kristen Bell series that was made a reality after a $5.7 million fundraising campaign on Kickstarter. Warner Bros. is opening the well-reviewed film in 291 theaters in North America, including 265 in the U.S. It's also getting a simultaneous online release.

It is unheard of for a Hollywood studio to open a film in theaters and also make it available to buy or rent online. Warner Bros., however, rented out the theaters, so technically it isn't violating tradition.

Veronica Mars scored a pleasing $260,000 from 95 theaters Thursday night, and could earn north of $750,000 on Friday alone, a strong number. Box observers are waiting to see how traffic holds up on Saturday before making a weekend prediction.