Box Office Report: 'Pain & Gain' Hopes to Hit $20 Million in North American Debut

The dark action comedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson is a marked departure from Michael Bay's big-budget tentpole fare; the Reese Witherspoon-Matthew McConaughey drama "Mud" opens at the specialty box office.

Michael Bay's Pain & Gain is poised to win the weekend box office race unless Oblivion overperforms in its second outing.

Headlining a buff Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson, Pain & Gain is a marked departure for Bay in both storyline and scope. The dark action comedy cost a modest $26 million to produce, according to Paramount (at CinemaCon last week, Bay called the film his "small" movie).

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The studio is projecting a weekend opening in the high teens for Pain & Gain, but tracking suggests it could cross $20 million.

The weekend's other new wide entry is R-rated comedy The Big Wedding, from Lionsgate and Avi Lerner's Millennium. The movie stars Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams.

Despite its star-studded cast, Big Wedding is projected to open only in the low teens. Lionsgate heavily targeted females over the age of 25 in promoting Big Wedding, which follows the travails of a modern family trying to endure a weekend wedding celebration. It cost just north of $30 million to produce and was directed by Justin Zackham.

Pain & Gain also stars Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub, Rob Corddry, Rebel Wilson and Bar Paly. The screenplay was written by Christopher Markus  and Stephen McFeely, based on the Miami New Times article of the same name by Pete Collins. The film is produced by Donald De Line, Bay and Ian Bryce.

The story follows a trio of bodybuilders (Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie) who get caught up in an extortion ring and kidnapping scheme that goes awry.

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Universal's Oblivion, which opened to a better-than-expected $37.1 million last weekend, is expected to gross in the $18 million to $20 million range, potentially putting it in a close battle with Pain & Gain. The Tom Cruise starrer has grossed a solid $45.2 million through Wednesday.

There are a flurry of new entries at the specialty box office, including Jeff Nichols' drama Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, and which opens just days after the actress was arrested for disorderly conduct just outside Atlanta. Roadside Attractions opens the independent film, produced by FilmNation, in more than 360 theaters.

Cinedigm opens comedy Arthur Newman in 250 theaters. The movie stars Colin Firth, Emily Blunt and Anne Heche.

The Weinstein Co. enters the fray with adventure Kon-Tiki, while IFC Films opens Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Midnight's Children, scripted by Salman Rushdie and distributed by Paladin, also opens.

Sony Pictures Classics will be busy handling the expansion of Robert Redford-Shia LaBeouf political thriller The Company You Keep, which ups its theater count to more than 800 locations, as well as the opening of At Any Price, starring Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham.