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‘Hansel and Gretel’ Is Grimm News For Weekend Box-Office Rivals

'Hansel and Gretel' Is Grimm News For Weekend Box-Office Rivals

With "Hansel and Gretel" in 3,300 theaters, 2,900 of them 3D, Paramount's action fantasy is looking at a $25M weekend

"Hansel and Gretel," a Grimm's fairy tale on special effects and 3D steroids, is ready to wreak some box-office havoc this weekend on its way to the number one spot.

Paramount has exerted considerable marketing muscle behind the R-rated action fantasy, and it seems to be connecting. "Hansel and Gretel" will take in more than $25 million over the three days, industry analysts say. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play bounty hunters tracking and killing witches all over the world in this version of the classic fairy tale,

The weekend's other wide openers, the ensemble sketch comedy "Movie 43" and the Jason Statham-Jennifer Lopez crime thriller "Parker," don't figure to be among the leaders.

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Last week's top film, Universal's horror thriller “Mama,” starring Jessica Chastain, is likely to take a hit from "Hansel and Gretel" but should still finish among the leaders. Best Picture Oscar nominees “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Silver Linings Playbook” will continue to be in the mix, too.

Renner's star is rising on the heels of “The Avengers” and “The Bourne Legacy,” but the best thing "Hansel and Gretel" will have going for it at the box office might be the bump it will get from premium pricing at its 3D and Imax locations. Paramount has its first 2013 release in roughly 3,300 locations, a whopping 2,900 of which are 3D, and in 300 Imax theaters.

What could work against "Hansel and Gretel" is its R-rating, which will limit its reach with younger fan boys, but late tracking suggests the film's appeal has broadened. Paramount is also opening "Hansel and Gretel" in 19 foreign markets this weekend, and a solid overseas performance will be critical if it's to offset its roughly $50 million budget.

“Hansel and Gretel,” a co-production of Paramount and MGM, was written and directed by Tommy Wirkola (“Dead Snow”) and co-stars Famke Janssen and Thomas Mann. The film is produced by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Kevin Messick and Beau Flynn.

“Movie 43” is unlike anything to hit the box office recently. Proudly rude and crude, Relativity's R-rated ensemble sketch comedy took four years to make and has 12 directors and twice that many stars.

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The cast of “Movie 43” features Oscar nominees Hugh Jackman and Naomi Watts, along with Seth MacFarlane, Halle Berry, Common, Richard Gere, Greg Kinnear, Kate Winslet, Uma Thurman, Emma Stone, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gerard Butler, Dennis Quaid, Sean William Scott, Kristen Bell and Elizabeth Banks. That's a lot of star wattage but most of the roles are cameos.

Also appearing are Anna Faris, Liev Schreiber, Johnny Knoxville, Kieran Culkin, Kate Bosworth, Bobby Carnavale, Will Sasso, Josh Duhamel, Snooki and … you get the idea. The budget was just $6 million, so everyone worked for scale. Even the sketches were solicited from agencies, actors and friends and came in the form of treatments, scripts and phone pitches. 

Peter Farrelly (“Shallow Hal”), who put the project together along with Charles Wessler, a producer on most of the Farrelly brothers films, directs one of the segments. Banks, Steven Brill, Steve Carr, Rusty Cundieff, James Duffy, Griffin Dunne, Patrik Forsberg, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Brett Ratner and Jonathan van Tulleken direct the others.

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“It was really all about schedule with a lot of these people,” Farrelly said. “Charlie would call and they'd say, 'Yeah, I’d love to do it, but I’m in the middle of a movie. I can do it in nine months, next September.' And he’d just go, 'Fine, we’ll see you in September.' That’s why this film took four years to make — it wasn’t sitting on shelf somewhere. We’d get who we’d get when we’d get them, and that’s how it worked.”

The sketches are tied together by a storyline involving a down-and-out movie producer (Quaid), who’s pitching projects to a studio exec (Kinnear) and his boss (Common). The shorts ensue.

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There haven't been press screenings, so the critics haven't gotten their hands on it. It's hard to tell from the red-band trailer how funny the film will be, but there's little doubt some will be offended — we're not talking "Love Actually" here — by the raunch and low-brow humor.

That's intended to be part of the appeal, of course, but points up a box-office conundrum: how successful can a film be when a large part of the audience most likely to most enjoy those kind of laughs can't get in because of the R rating? Relativity is banking on 18-34-year-olds, and analysts and the studio see it making around $8 million or $9 million over the three days.

The film has already made more than its budget in the foreign pre-sales, which were handled by Lionsgate International. It's among the first releases overseen by Relativity's new international distribution unit, Relativity International, and has taken in approximately $8.5 million since opening earlier this month in Russia.

In “Parker,” directed by Taylor Hackford (“Ray”), Statham plays a professional thief with a conscience, who doesn't steal from the poor or hurt innocent people. Double-crossed  after a gang heist, he heads to Palm Beach, Fla., and teams with one of their victims (Lopez) for revenge.

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The presence of Lopez, who has a major music fan base, provides something of an X factor for “Parker.” She hasn't been seen in a box-office hit since 2005's “Monster In Law,” but her voice helped “Ice Age: Continental Drift” ring up $875 million worldwide last year.

Statham's last movie was  the ensemble action film “Expendables 2,” which opened to $28 million and went on to make $85 million last year. But the tracking and social media hasn't been strong, and “Parker” will be hard-pressed to match the performance of Staham's 2011 film “The Mechanic,” which opened to $11 million and made $29 million. Film District has it in 2,224 locations.

John J. McLaughlin adapted the script from “Flashfire,” the 19th “Parker” novel, written by Donald Westlake under the name Richard Stark.