Box Office Preview: 'Jack' Tries to Slay Skeptics

Jack The Giant Slayer Jack and Isabelle - H 2013
Warner Bros.

Jack The Giant Slayer Jack and Isabelle - H 2013

The first big-budget tentpole of the year might have trouble hitting $30 million in its North American debut -- the same number "John Carter" opened to last year; Chan-wook Park's "Stoker" opens at the specialty box office.

A fairy-tale ending might be tough for Bryan Singer's 3D fantasy-adventure Jack the Giant Slayer, which rolls out at 10 p.m. Thursday in North American theaters in the face of soft prerelease tracking.

From New Line and Legendary Pictures, the revisionist take on the classic English story Jack and the Beanstalk, starring up-and-coming actor Nicholas Hoult in the title role, might only open in the $25 million to $30 million range -- a worrisome start considering the film's $195 million production budget, bringing the total price tag to nearly $300 million when accounting for marketing.

REVIEW: Jack the Giant Slayer

Last year, Disney's doomed John Carter debuted to $30 million in early March (that film cost north of $250 million). Several months later, Universal and Hasbro's Battleship, costing in the same ballpark as Jack, opened to $25.5 million on its way to grossing $65.4 million domestically and $237.6 million internationally for a meek total of $303 million. Disney and Universal suffered major financial losses.

New Line and its parent company Warner Bros. are hoping that Jack overperforms overseas, where 3D action-adventure films can see big returns. The film opens this weekend in Asian territories, though not China.

And in North America, Jack is making a major push for families despite its PG-13 rating -- and if parents and kids turn out in force, the pic could overperform. Jack's release was pushed back from June 2012 in order to retool parts of the film and make it more kid-friendly, and the title was changed from Jack the Giant Killer to Jack the Giant Slayer.

In Singer's rendering, the young farmhand Jack (Hoult) accidentally opens a portal to a race of angry giants intent on destroying the kingdom and kidnapping Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson). Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor also star.

STORY: 'Jack the Giant Slayer' Cast on the Challenges of Motion Capture

Even if it does better than expected in its opening, Jack faces a formidable foe in Disney's fantasy-adventure Oz the Great and Powerful, which debuts March 8. Rated PG, the 3D event pic is enjoying strong tracking and is projecting to open to $75 million or better.

Jack isn't the only new game in town this weekend. Relativity Media's $13 million, R-rated comedy 21 and Over debuts, along with CBS Films' The Last Exorcism Part II and RCR's KGB thriller Phantom.

21 and Over, written and directed by The Hangover scribes Josh Lucas and Scott Moore, is pacing to open in the $13 million-to-$15 million range. The comedy stars Justin Chon, Skylar Astin and Miles Teller as three friends embarking on a  21st birthday celebration.

Last Exorcism II is expected to open in the $8 million-to-$10 million range, well short of the $20.4 million opening of Last Exorcism in late August 2010 (that film was released by Lionsgate).

Phantom, starring Ed Harris, David Duchovny and William Fichtner, is only pacing to gross $2 million to $3 million.

It's looking like another down weekend in terms of overall revenue. Last year, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax debuted to $70.2 million, while Project X opened to $21.1 million.

The specialty box office sees the debut of Chan-wook Park's Stoker, starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode. Fox Searchlight opens the film in seven theaters.