Friday Box Office: ‘Mars Needs Moms’ Is a Planet of Red Ink for Disney at $1.8M

Mouse’s last Robert Zemeckis movie is as disastrous as predicted; Sony’s “Battle: L.A.” could over-perform to $35M this weekend; Warner’s “Red Riding Hood” has soft $5M opening day

Friday night, Saturday am update:

Sony’s Marines-vs.-space aliens film “Battle: Los Angeles” got off to a solid start at the domestic box office Friday, pacing ahead of pre-release projections with early estimates of $13.5 million for its first day. “Battle L.A.” could gross as much as $35 million this weekend, studio sources tell TheWrap.

But the last remnants of the Robert Zemeckis and Disney collaboration is proving to be a huge loser, with the motion-capture-CG family movie “Mars Needs Moms” taking in only around $1.8 million on its first day.

This 3D movie cost over $150 million to make, and it likely won’t break $10 million this weekend.

The wolf isn’t at the door in nearly the same way for Warner’s $39 million “Red Riding Hood,” but the Amanda Seyfried movie is slightly off tracking, grossing an estimated $5 million Friday. It’s on pace to make around $15 million this weekend — pre-release predictions called for around $20 million.

Here are full Saturday-morning estimates for the Friday box office. Overall, the domestic market is down about 14 percent from the same weekend last year. Friday's preview is below this chart:

"Battle: Los Angeles" ($13.5m)
"Rango" ($5.5m)
"Red Riding Hood" ($5.0m)
"The Adjustment Bureau" ($3.4m)
"Mars Needs Moms" ($1.7m)
"Beastly" ($1.7m)
"Hall Pass" ($1.5m)
"Just Go With It" ($1.2m)
"Unknown" ($946k)
"The King's Speech" ($944k)

Thursday preview:

Alien invasion, it's not for everybody.

On the same weekend that Sony Pictures is expected to lead the domestic box-office with a $28 million-$32 million performance for Aaron Eckhart alien-invasion film "Battle: Los Angeles," Disney Robert Zemeckis family movie "Mars Needs Moms" is tracking to flame out rather spectacularly.

In fact, the $150 million-plus family film — which uses Zemeckis' hybrid live-action/CG-animation techniques — might not even crack the $10 million mark this weekend.

Also opening wide this weekend in 3,030 North American outlets: Warner fair-tale adaptation "Red Riding Hood," which stars Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman. The $42 million movie is tracking to bring in around $20 million this weekend.

But it'll be Disney seeing the wolf at the door this weekend, with "Mars Needs Moms" registering an exceptionally low 3 percent "first choice" score from one tracking-firm survey, even though "total awareness" of the film is over 70 percent.

"It's showing pretty good awareness, but nobody seems to want to see the movie," lamented one Disney insider.

This potential box-office disaster comes on the heels of the $325.3 million performance in late-2009 for Zemeckis' "A Christmas Carol," a gross that just covered a $200 million negative cost for the film, as well as its P&A cost.

Marketing for "Battle: Los Angeles," meanwhile, seems to be working with men over 25, with the demo registering 84 percent total awareness for the film, as well as solid 56 percent "definite interest" and 28 percent "first choice," according to one tracking firm.

According to Sony executives, the movie cost $70 million to produce after tax credits are considered.

Will "Battle: L.A." lead the human resistance to what is becoming a significant slump at the domestic box office, with only one weekend in 2011 up over 2010?

Probably not.

The year-to-year bar this time around is the $135.7 million overall gross set in the second weekend of March of last year, when the second weekend of Disney's "Alice in Wonderland" generated $135.7 million.

Of course, for a domestic box office that's off nearly 30 percent right now, "Alice" doesn't live here anymore in 2011.