Box Office Report: 'World War Z' Eyeing $52 Million to $58 Million Debut

Paramount Pictures
"World War Z"

UPDATED: Disney and Pixar's "Monsters University" is on its way to top the weekend with $71 million-plus.

Captivating families, Monsters University is eyeing a stellar $71 million-plus debut, and World War Z is scaring up enough business possibly to beat Man of Steel.

Based on early Friday returns, World War Z appears on track earn a strong $52 million to $58 million in its domestic debut, enough to beat the holdover Superman pic.

Both new films are turning in stellar performances at the box office.

Disney and Pixar's Monsters University is on its way to earning $25 million to $28 million Friday as it moves toward easily topping the weekend's North American box office with a total of more than $71 million.

If the family film tops that mark, it will claim the second-biggest opening weekend for any Pixar release. Toy Story 3 holds the No. 1 spot with its phenomenal $110.3 million bow in 2010, and the No. 2 slot is held by 2004's The Incredibles, which earned $70.5 million in its North American debut.

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Opening in 4,004 theaters, Monsters University is directed by Don Scanlon and sees the returns of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Frank Oz voicing the roles of Mike Wazowski, James P. Sullivan, Randall Boggs, and Jeff Fungus, respectively.

The 3D animated pic began rolling out at 8 p.m. Thursday in select theaters, grossing $2.6 million on the night.

The weekend's other new entry, Paramount's zombie pic World War Z, is heading toward a $21 million Friday. The PG-13 film, starring and produced by Brad Pitt, earned $3.6 million as it began its North American debut Thursday night in select theaters.

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Based on Max Brooks' 2006 novel of the same name, the action film cost $190 million to produce after tax incentives. Extensive reshoots bumped up its original $150 million budget. The pic, directed by Marc Forster, initially was slotted to open in December.

Paramount and co-financing partner Skydance Productions are banking on World War Z to have a better-than-usual multiple, similar to other original tentpoles. Avatar debuted to $77 million in December 2009 on its way to a $760.5 million domestic cume, nearly 10 times its opening number. And in summer 2010, Christopher Nolan's Inception grossed $292.6 million, nearly five times its $62.8 million debut.

Paramount insiders note that few original event pics open to $50 million or higher. And while Pitt might be one of the world's most recognizable stars, his biggest opening has been the $50.3 million earned by Mr. & Mrs. Smith in summer 2005.

Monsters University and World War Z both are likely to beat Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, which could earn about $50 million in its second outing.

Overseas, World War Z already is drumming up strong business, scoring $5.7 million Thursday and pacing in line with Inception. In South Korea, the film grossed $1.5 million, ahead of the $1.1 million earned a week earlier by Man of Steel. Inception's opening-day gross in South Korea was $941,000.

World War Z also grossed $1.1 million in Australia on Thursday, in line with Inception. And the movie entered the record books in Argentina, grossing $710,000 -- doubling Man of Steel's Thursday take there and posting the third-best Thursday to date in that market.