Box Office Preview: Can 'Smurfs 2' Fight Off Family Fatigue?

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

The CGI/live-action hybrid -- opening Wednesday -- is tracking to post a domestic five-day debut in the $35 million range but could hit $100 million worldwide.

Sony's The Smurfs 2 opens at the North American box office on Wednesday, the latest entry in this summer's fiercely competitive family race.

The CGI/live-action hybrid is tracking to post a five-day domestic debut in the $35 million range, meaning it won't match the $35.6 million earned by The Smurfs in its first three days when it opened in late July 2011. Sony has high hopes for the sequel's international prospects, considering the first film took in a stunning $421.1 million for a worldwide total of $563.7 million.

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Smurfs 2, costing under $105 million to make, could bow to north of $100 million worldwide. It rolls out in 43 foreign territories this weekend, including 12 major markets.

In North America, the family film will vie for the No. 1 spot with R-rated action-comedy 2 Guns, starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. That film doesn't open until Friday, and, unless tracking picks up in the next two days, it may only hit $20 million for the weekend.

Smurfs 2 could suffer domestically from a glut of family product. It hits theaters only two weeks after DreamWorks Animation's 3D tentpole Turbo and four weeks after Universal's megahit Despicable Me 2. Turbo's earning power has been hurt by Despicable 2, and Smurfs 2 could easily be impacted as well. At the same time, the blue characters have an avid following, as evidenced by the first Smurfs turning into a surprise hit.

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Sony needs a win. Its first two summer tentpoles, After Earth and White House Down, were both box-office duds. In the plus column, however, are Adam Sandler ensemble comedy Grown Ups 2 and innovative R-rated comedy This Is the End. After Smurfs 2, the studio has one high-profile title left to open: Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi epic Elysium, starring Matt Damon. Media Rights Capital co-financed and produced the film with Sony.

Smurfs 2, based on the comic book series created by the Belgian artist Peyo, is the second title in a planned trilogy (The Smurfs 3 is set for summer 2015). The sequel sees all of the main cast returning, with Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria reprising their live-action roles. Jonathan Winters, who died this spring, and Katy Perry lead the voice cast, while Raja Gosnell returns to the director's chair.