The world may be coming to an end this weekend — but not for Sony.
Barring an epic upset, the studio’s $200 million apocalypse-themed "2012" — directed by disastermeister Roland Emmerich and starring John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson and Amanda Peet — is projected to take in between $50 million and $55 million at the domestic box office through Sunday.
Its only new competition? The limited openings of Focus Features’ “Pirate Radio” and Fox’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” along with Michael Jackson’s "This Is It" and the second weekend for "Disney’s A Christmas Carol," as well as the modest expansion of Lionsgate’s potential awards sensation “Precious.”
Not only is an easy domination expected for "2012," but as with most movies directed by Roland Emmerich, it will likely prove to be a global experience for Sony.
“It’s so rich in regards to its visuals and certainly action,” said Rory Bruer, president of distribution for the studio. “Everybody around the world will get this story."
As with most Emmerich epics, “2012” arrives without much critical acclaim – though its Rotten Tomatoes score, in the low 30s, is a lot better his 2008 prehistoric action-packer “10,000 B.C.” (the Tomatoes score for that one was an almost unthinkably bad 9 percent), but not quite as good as 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow” (in the 40s).
While it could certainly help offset a huge production budget, as well as global prints and advertising costs that must be at least around $100 million, the typical Emmerich film doesn’t necessarily require a huge domestic performance.
Indeed, both “The Day After Tomorrow” and “10,000 B.C.” made the bulk of their bread overseas. The global warming-themed “Tomorrow” took in $357.5 million of its $544.3 million global bounty through foreign ticket sales, while “B.C.” made $175 million of its $269.8 million total take abroad.
And just like those two films, “2012” promises to deliver the kinds of action and mayhem that translate well to international audiences. "There are no cultural divides on this one,” Bruer told TheWrap.
For its part, Sony has been living well off the foreign markets of late. “This Is It” — now extended through the Thanksgiving weekend — has crossed the $200 million mark in global ticket sales, with foreign distribution accounting for $140 million of that total.
Expected to take in as much as another $8 million domestically, the rehearsal documentary is projected to finish third in the North American market behind “A Christmas Carol.”
The bar remains high for the Robert Zemeckis-directed 3D motion-capture film, which opened to $31 million last weekend — a total deemed underwhelming based on its $200 million production budget. The film is predicted to garner another $20 million or so this weekend.
In terms of new releases, “2012” — which will start out in more than 3,400 theaters — is the only wide opener, but the other two weekend debuts come with heavy awards buzz. "Pirate Radio," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as a boat-based broadcaster, opens in 900 venues; “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” with voice stars George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, debuts in just four within New York and Los Angeles, starting a platform-release strategy befitting a quirky Wes Anderson film.
Finally, after setting a per-screen revenue record for a movie opening at under 50 venues, “Precious” will widen its play to 175 theaters this weekend.