Box Office Preview: Will 'R.I.P.D.' Be Hollywood's Next Big-Budget Disappointment?

Universal Pictures
Ryan Reynolds, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeff Bridges in "R.I.P.D."

There's a glut of new films opening at the box office beginning on Wednesday with 3D animated event pic "Turbo"; "The Conjuring," "R.I.P.D" and "Red 2" follow on Thursday night.

A fierce face-off is brewing at the multiplex as four films prepare to enter the summer fray, including Universal's troubled Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds action-comedy R.I.P.D.

Pre-release tracking has been notably soft for R.I.P.D. considering its $130 million production budget, and it could have a hard time fending off Summit's adult action pic Red 2 and New Line's low-budget horror entry The Conjuring. At this point, they are all tracking to open in the $17 million to $20 million range, although those projections could shift when final tracking is released Thursday.

The three movies begin rolling out on Thursday night, while DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox's Turbo opens Wednesday.

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Turbo, looking to benefit from being an original story after sequels Monsters University and Despicable Me 2, is eyeing a five-day debut in the $35 million range, although more bullish box office observers believe it will come in around $40 million. 

Still, Turbo will prove to be a test of whether families feel like they've already made too many trips to the multiplex, considering there are an unprecedented number of animated tentpoles this summer.

Costing $135 million to produce and directed by David Soren, Turbo is about an ordinary garden snail whose dream of racing in the Indianapolis 500 comes true. Reynolds voices the title role; Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dogg, Michael Pena, Maya Rudolph, Michelle Rodriguez and Samuel L. Jackson also lend their voices.

R.I.P.D., directed by Robert Schwentke and based on the comic book Rest in Peace Department by Peter M. Lenkov, stars Reynolds and Bridges as deceased police officers who must protect the living from evil spirits who refuse to move on. The movie, drawing comparisons to Men in Black, also stars Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker (who appears in Red 2 as well).

Universal is enjoying a strong summer and can weather a miss should R.I.P.D. turn out to be a disappointment. Fast & Furious 6 and Despicable Me 2 are two of the biggest success stories of the season, with Fast earning north of $700 million worldwide and Despicable on the verge of racing past the $500 million mark worldwide to date.

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Costing a modest $20 million to produce, The Conjuring is directed by horror maestro James Wan and stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as paranormal investigators who help a family terrorized by a dark force. Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor also star. New Line and Warner Bros. are particularly bullish on the film, which could easily overperform.

Red 2 opens three years after the original film became a box office sensation among older adults drawn to the A-list cast, including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich. They all return, while Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones join the crew of special operatives.

Schwentke directed the 2010 Red, which debuted to $21.8 million domestically on its way to grossing nearly $200 million worldwide; Dean Parisot is in the director's chair this time. Summit took a gamble in opening the sequel in the heart of summer, considering Red debuted in October, and some believe Red 2 will prevail over The Conjuring and R.I.P.D.