Box Office Report: Friday Returns Show 'G.I. Joe' Sequel Aiming for $45 Million-Plus Debut

Paramount Pictures
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation"

UPDATED: Tyler Perry's sultry thriller "Temptation" hopes to hit $20 million over Easter weekend, followed by Stephenie Meyer's new sci-fi adventure "The Host"; "The Croods" will beat both for No. 2.

Jon M. Chu's G.I. Joe: Retaliation is in the lead as Easter weekend gets underway.

G.I. Joe, with a cast led by franchise newcomers Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, got a jump on the holiday frame by opening Thursday. The Paramount picture took in $10.5 million on its first day and scored a promising A- CinemaScore.

STORY: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' Premiere: Bruce Willis Wins a Beard Bet, Dwayne Johnson Rocks as Roadblock

Based on early Friday returns, box-office observers are projecting that G.I. Joe could gross in the $12 million to $14 million range for the day, putting its weekend gross at roughly $36 million and four-day debut in the $45 million range.

Moviegoing is strong on Good Friday and Saturday, slowing somewhat on Easter Sunday. "Let's root for a 'Great' not Good Friday," quipped one Paramount insider.

Still, G.I. Joe likely won't match the $54.7 million domestic opening of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but that film was released during the summer play period in early August 2009. The film (earning a B+ CinemaScore) ultimately took in $150.2 million domestically and $152.3 million internationally for a total of $302.5 million.

G.I. Joe also is opening in most international markets (75 percent) and is anticipating a global bow in the $100 million range. Paramount financed and produced the film with MGM and Skydance Productions in association with Hasbro. Producers are Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Brian Goldner.

D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce and Ray Stevenson also star in the sequel.

G.I. Joe originally was set to open last summer, but the studio pushed back the release in order to convert it to 3D and refashion Channing Tatum's role. Originally, his character was killed off, but after the star's box-office status surged thanks to The Vow and 21 Jump Street, Paramount and its partners decided to make the character's fate more ambiguous.

Paramount already is anticipating that G.I. Joe will hit $200 million internationally, notably more than the original.

The studio says it minimized its risk overall by keeping G.I. Joe's budget to roughly $130 million; Cobra cost at least $175 million. Paramount put up half the money for the sequel, while MGM and David Ellison's Skydance each put up a 25 percent share.

Opening on Good Friday are writer-director Tyler Perry's Temptation -- a marked departure from the filmmaker's comedic fare -- and director Andrew Niccol's sci-fi thriller The Host, adapted from Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's novel.

Temptation, from Lionsgate, is doing solid business so far for a projected three-day debut in the $18 million range or better. The film stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Friday Night Lights) as a restless marriage counselor who begins a dangerous affair with a social media mogul (Robbie Jones). Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams also star.

Lionsgate targeted women and African-Americans in marketing the film. The studio also took advantage of Kardashian's celebrity profile.

It is the fourth Perry film that Lionsgate has released over Easter weekend.

STORY: Ain't It Cool's Harry Knowles: The Cash-Strapped King of the Nerds Plots a Comeback 

The Host, starring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons and Jake Abel, is pacing to open in the $14 million range, although that projection could change. Open Road Films is distributing the film on behalf of producers Nick Wechsler, Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz and Inferno Entertainment. Meyer also is a producer and has tirelessly promoted the project, which marks her first post-Twilight outing.

Set in a society where parasitic aliens known as "Souls" inhabit humans, The Host is appealing primarily to females (Meyer's fan base). The story follows a "Soul" who finds it impossible to entirely banish the human girl she inhabits.

DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox's animated family event pic The Croods will beat both Temptation and The Host for No. 2 with a projected weekend gross as high as $30 million - a decline of only 31 percent.

The 3D toon opened to $43.6 million last weekend and has done strong midweek business for a domestic total of $62.1 million. On Friday, it could gross $11 million to $11.5 million, virtually the same as it earned a week ago thanks to kids and parents being out of school and off of work.