‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation,’ Buffed Up With 3D, Aims to Conquer Box-Office World

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Paramount's 3D gamble looks ready to pay off with a $50M holiday weekend debut — but the stakes are higher overseas

“G.I Joe:Retaliation“ reports for box-office duty Wednesday night, after a nine-month delay. The world’s most famous toy soldier and his mates will battle the evil agents of Cobra In the movie, but in the multiplexes, it will be all about 3D.

Paramount last May took the unusual step of delaying its $135 million sequel to “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” originally scheduled to be released last June 29, in order to convert it to 3D. The decision came just after another movie based on a Hasbro toy, Universal’s “Battleship,” tanked domestically after making more than $200 million overseas.

“We wanted to put out the very best movie we could,” Paramount’s head of distribution Don Harris told TheWrap Tuesday, “and it became clear to us that 3D was the way to go.”

Certainly it will make the kabooms bigger and the fights scenes and panoramas more dizzying, and that should please hardcore fans raised on "G.I. Joe" toys, comic books and cartoons. But the real reason for the conversion was to cash in at the box office, particularly overseas.

The 3D allows for $3 to $4 ticket price upticks. More than 3,000 of the roughly 3,700 theaters showing  “G.I. Joe” will be screening the film in the format, along with another 300 Imax screens. Though its official opening date is Thursday, Paramount is getting a big jump on the weekend, debuting the film in a numbers of theaters starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Also read: Why 7 p.m. Is the New 'Midnight Opening' at the Box Office

That should translate to a $50 million, four-and-a-half day total and the top spot on the Easter holiday weekend, industry analysts say. The battle for second will be between last week’s No. 1 film, DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods,” and “Tyler Perry’s Temptation” at about $20 million. The latter opens Friday, along with the weekend’s other wide opener, the sci-fi thriller “The Host,” based on the young adult novel by “Twilight’ series author Stephenie Meyer. it's tracking at about $15 million for the three days.

The first ‘G.I. Joe” film brought in about $300 million at the global box office, split almost evenly between domestic and foreign. The buzz and anticipation surrounding “Retaliation” has been as strong or stronger than for the first film, and analysts believe “Retaliation” should come close to that domestic total and exceed the foreign number.

Success for “Retaliation” abroad will be critical if Paramount is going to make money. The merchandising and marketing campaigns for the film – including a pricey Super Bowl commercial — were under way when the decision to push the date was made, and that had to raise costs. 

It appears set up to score overseas. "Retaliation" will open in 53 foreign markets this weekend, and that’s where the studio’s decision to convert to 3D could really pay off. The format is still something of a novelty in many countries, and the the percentage of 3D screens is very high.

Also read: 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' Review: Saturday Morning Cartoon Writ Large

Action films often translate well abroad. “Retaliation” stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis, all are proven overseas draws (“Good Day to Die Hard,” with Willis starring, just crossed $220 million in foreign grosses for Fox). Pakistan, Tokyo, Nepal London and the Himalayas are locales in the film, and Korean star Byung-hyun Lee will drive grosses in that market.
 
U.S. critics so far aren’t impressed; the film has just a 44 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But the young males who make up the film’s primary fan base are the target demo, and that won’t dissuade them; they’re expected to dominate the early screenings. By Saturday, though, Paramount is hoping the PG-rated “Retaliation” will begin scoring with families.

The script is by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (“Zombieland”). Suffice to say that Cobra manages to replace the President of the United States with an evil stand-in, and then the fun begins. John M. Chu (“Step Up 3D,” “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”) directs.

Along with Willis, Adrianne Palicki and Elodi Yung join the cast, which includes Jonathan Pryce, D.J. Cotrona and  Ray Park. MGM and Skydance Productions were co-producers on the film.

“Tyler Perry’s Temptation” is tracking strongly with its target African-American audience. Box-office success is something of an Easter tradition for Perry, who writes and directs. Three of his previous films have debuted on Easter weekend ("Why Did I Get Married Too?," "Madea's Big Happy Family" and "Meet the Browns"), and all opened between $20 million and $30 million.

Lionsgate, which has the PG-rated film in roughly 200 theaters, sees an opening for "Temptation" along the lines of last year’s “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds,” which debuted to  $15 million in February and went on to take in $35 million domestically.

Also read: Can Kim Kardashian Give 'Tyler Perry's Temptation' a Boost Like Madea?

“Temptation” follows a heated romance between the ambitious and married Judith (played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Harley (Robbie Jones), a handsome social media billionaire who aggressively courts her. Reality star and marketing marvel Kim Kardashian plays Judith's co-worker at the high-end couple's therapy business.

“The Host,” is a bit of a wild card. Distributor Open Road Films has the film in about 3,200 theaters and is targeting young women – the same group that made the “Twilight” series such a hit. 

Tracking is tricky on that group, and few will be surprised if it overperforms or underperforms, like the similarly young-skewing “Beautiful Creatures” did earlier this year.

Andrew Niccol (“The Minutes”) directs and adapted Meyer’s novel in which an unseen enemy threatens mankind by taking over their bodies and erasing their memories. Saoirse Ronin (“Hanna”), Max Irons and Jake Abel star.

Chockstone Pictures and Nick Wechsler Productions produced, for a reported $40 million.