Box Office Update: 'Cowboys & Aliens' Gaining Strength

The big-budget pic headed for a $40 million-plus debut; Sony's "Smurfs" and Warner Bros.' Steve Carell comedy off to strong start.

Jon Favreau's big-budget Cowboys & Aliens is picking up the pace at the Friday box office, and could open north of $40 million for the weekend, according to early estimates.

Earlier on Friday, Universal had lowered its weekend estimate for the movie, but by early evening, upped the projection after traffic picked up at the multiplex.

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Elsewhere at the box office, Sony's new 3D kids pic The Smurfs was doing strong business, and could gross as much $30 million or more for the weekend. Warner Bros.' Steve Carell-Ryan Gosling comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love likewise is off to a strong start, anticipating an $18 million to $20 million debut.

Cowboys, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, couldn't have better pedigree. Stacey Snider and Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks oversaw production and co-financed the $163 million pic with Universal and Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment also have a producing.

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But original stories are always a risk, not to mention mixing the Western and sci-fi genres. Westerns generally draw older moviegoers, and Cowboys has indeed been tracking best among males over 25, followed by males under 25, who are Favreau and sci-fi fans.

Cowboys grossed a soft $700,000 in midnight runs Thursday night, suggesting that younger fanboys weren't rushing to see the film. Universal will be watching closely on Friday night to see what demos are turning out.

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So far, the movie is tracking ahead of Super 8, District 9 and Battle: Los Angeles.
Earlier this summer, Super 8 grossed $13.1 million on its first Friday, along with $1 million in special sneaks the previous Thursday night. Super 8 went on to post an opening weekend gross of $36.5 million.

The big difference between the two movies is their price tags. J.J. Abrams' Super 8 reportedly cost $55 million to make.

DreamWorks financed half of Cowboys' budget, while Universal and Relativity Media each put up 25%.