Box Office Preview: Will 'Pacific Rim' Surprise Hollywood in Scoring $40 Million-Plus Debut?

Warner Bros. Pictures
"Pacific Rim"

Unless enough fanboys turn out, Guillermo del Toro's big-budget tentpole will lose to Sony comedy "Grown Ups 2," while "Despicable Me 2" could stay at No. 1 in its second weekend.

Thanks to a last-minute marketing deluge and strong reviews, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures' fanboy-driven Pacific Rim could defy naysayers and open north of $40 million in its North American debut, putting it in a potentially close contest with Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups 2, according to studio insiders.

Still, most box-office experts continue to predict a poor outcome for Pacific Rim. Based on prerelease tracking, they believe it may only open in the $30 million range, a financially precarious beginning for a movie that cost at least $185 million to produce (Legendary took the lead on the project and paid for the majority of the budget).

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Fanboys, who are devoted to del Toro, could prove tracking wrong if they turn out in bigger numbers than expected. On Thursday, online ticketing service Fandango reported that Pacific Rim is pacing ahead of recent zombie pic World War Z in advance ticket sales, as well as ahead of Grown Ups 2.

One caveat: A large chunk of those sales are for Imax theaters, the preferred venue for fanboys. World War Z, which opened to $66 million last month, did not play in Imax theaters.

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Pacific Rim, pitting giant robots against alien monsters, stars Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Day.

If Pacific Rim is soft in North America, it could make up ground overseas, particularly in Asia, Russia and Latin America, where 3D action is a popular genre. Its chances in Europe are more uncertain, considering it received a poor reception earlier this month at CineEurope, the annual gathering of exhibitors.

The movie opens day-and-date in 38 markets this weekend, including six major markets; U.K., Italy, Russia, Mexico, South Korea and Australia.

Pacific Rim opens just as Thomas Tull's Legendary and Warners prepare to part ways. Earlier this week, Legendary announced it has struck a new co-financing and production deal with Universal.

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Sony's Grown Ups 2, with a budget of $80 million, opens three years after the original film turned into a box-office hit, opening to $40.5 million and ultimately grossing $271.4 million worldwide.

The ensemble comedy -- receiving blistering reviews -- reteams Sandler with Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Maria Bello. Grown Ups 2 had an abysmal 3 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of Thursday afternoon.

Sony insiders believe the sequel will open in the same range as the 2010 film.

Universal's megahit Despicable Me 2 could easily stay at No. 1 in its second weekend. The 3D animated tentpole has already earned north of $165 million domestically and north of $316 million worldwide.