'Wall Street 2' stock to rise with box office take

VIDEO: 'Legends of the Guardian,' 'You Again' also open

Finally, an autumn box-office session moviegoers should really fall for as three wide releases boasting pedigree helmers and top talent hit domestic multiplexes Friday.

It's a well-targeted group, featuring an adult-skewing thriller, a geek-seeking 3D pic and a youth comedy aiming for teens, tweens and their families. But there appears a clear front-runner to grab the weekend's theatrical bragging rights: Fox's Michael Douglas starrer "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps."

The "Wall Street" sequel is on course to fetch $20 million or more through Sunday, keying on older adult fans of Oliver Stone's 1987 original. The PG-13 "Money" cost an estimated $53 million to produce.

Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan co-star, with the original's Charlie Sheen on board for a cameo. Responding to marketing materials showing younger cast members as well as Douglas, tracking surveys show creeping interest among moviegoers too young to have seen the first financial thriller in theaters.

"Clearly, we have all adults 25 and up on board, and the younger people now are starting to respond," Fox distribution topper Bruce Snyder said.

Promotion has been a bit hampered by Douglas' unavailability because of cancer therapy, though the topliner did stump for "Money" in the spring before Fox postponed its release to adult-friendly fall.

Also arriving Friday is Warner Bros.' animated 3D fantasy adventure "Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'Hoole." It was an early favorite to compete for the top spot this weekend, but must-see interest has been limp of late in tracking surveys.

Directed by Zack Snyder, a fanboy fave for "Watchmen" and "300," "Guardians" unspools in a record 2,479 3D locations among 3,575 total theaters. Helen Mirren, Anthony LaPaglia and Sam Neill join several child actors in the voice cast of the PG pic, the first in a presumed series of movies based on the "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" book series by Kathryn Lasky.

A bow in the high-teen millions looks likely, with execs hoping pic support eventually broadens from its family base to encompass more fans of the director and 3D cinema.

"We have great confidence in Zack Snyder," Warner distribution boss Dan Fellman said. "He has delivered for us in the past and has done so once again. 'Guardians' will be perceived as the best 3D ever to reach the market to date."

Village Roadshow was a 50-50 partner on the production, which took advantage of Australian tax credits to shave costs to an estimated $79 million.

Disney's youth-targeting comedy "You Again" is the weekend's third major wide opener.

Directed by Andy Fickman ("Race to Witch Mountain"), the films stars Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Betty White and Sigourney Weaver.

"There hasn't been a flat-out comedy with these kind of stars for a while," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said.

Expectations for the pic's bow are modest, though. Costing an estimated $20 million to produce, the PG pic is expected to open in the $8 million-$10 million range.

Meanwhile, Warners' heist-pic holdover "The Town," directed and toplined by Ben Affleck, will try to sustain its surprisingly strong start while competing for the same older adults as "Money." The No. 1 domestic grosser last weekend, "Town" totes $31 million in cumulative box office into its sophomore session.

Also this frame, Sony's "The Virginity Hit," a low-budget youth comedy whose producers include Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, gets a barely wide 700 playdates following two weekends of one-per-night performances in more than a dozen college-town venues. Sony hasn't disclosed a cume for the pic, which was produced for less than $3 million.

Industrywide, this weekend box office will be compared with a $97 million frame last year topped by the $14.9 million debut of Disney's "Surrogates."

A big industry haul this session would help put seasonal box office on a more productive track, following the industry's wobbly start to the fall. Year to date, the domestic box office is outpacing 2009 by less than 4%, at $7.93 billion, with ticket-price increases more than accounting for the uptick.