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‘300: Rise of an Empire,’ ‘Peabody & Sherman’ Primed to Go 1-2 at Box Office

”Rise of an Empire“ eyes $40 million debut while DreamWorks’ animated family film targets $25 million opening

Moviegoers can take two very different history trips — “300: Rise of an Empire” and the animated “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” — at the box office this weekend. Most will go with the ancient Greek warriors over the time-traveling cartoon dog and his young master, say the analysts.

Warner Bros.’ and Legendary Pictures’ sequel to their breakout 2007 hit “300” will take the top spot with an opening of around $40 million and DreamWorks’ “Peabody” should debut with north of $25 million, they project. That would knock Universal’s Liam Neeson thriller “Non-Stop” out of the top spot and beat last week’s runner-up, Mark Burnett’s Bible tale “Son of God.”

These are the two most expensive movies to come out so far this year. The production budget on “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” which Fox is distributing as part of its deal with DreamWorks, is estimated at $120 million, and “Rise of an Empire” cost more than $100 million.

Also read: ‘300: Rise of An Empire’ Review: More of the Same, But Slightly Less

Zack Snyder co-wrote and directed the first “300,” which opened to $70 million and took in more $456 million worldwide. He’s writing and producing this R-rated sequel after opting out of the director’s gig — Noam Murro (“Smart People”) is in — to take on the Warner Bros. Batman vs. Superman movie set for 2016.

“Rise of an Empire” recreates the ultra-stylized video-game look of the first film and stars Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green, along with returning cast members Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santor, David Wenham and Andrew Tiernan. In it, Greek general Themistokles (Stapleton) leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Santor) and Artemisia (Green), commander of the Persian navy.

The critics are lukewarm and “Rise of an Empire” is at 59 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But the tracking has surged, social media signs look positive and it was leading advance ticket sales at Fandango on Thursday.

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If the R-rated and 3D “Rise of an Empire” can connect, it will be the year’s first sword-and-sandals saga to do so after two major misfires, “Hercules” and “Pompeii.” It will be in roughly 3,470 theaters in the U.S., including more than 300 Imax theaters.

Warner Bros. is counting on significant returns from overseas, and will roll out “Rise of an Empire” in the U.K., Russia and roughly more than 50 other markets this weekend.

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is based on a segment from the 1960s TV show “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” in which the smartest dog in the world regularly took his young charge Sherman back in time via his “WABAK” (pronounced “way back”) time machine.

Old TV series references won’t resonate with young moviegoers but could amuse parents and might even draw some adults who remember the bits. Ty Burrell of TV’s “Modern Family” and Max Charles top the voice cast, which includes Allison Janey, Dennis Haysbert and Stephen Colbert. The plot is simple: think an animated “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” for a younger set.

Also read: ‘Mr. Peabody and Sherman’ Review: Amusing Cartoon Might Delight Adults More Than Kids

The critics love it, and it’s at 92 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s behind “The Lego Movie” — which will be its primary competition for the family crowd — on Twitter, but way ahead of it on Facebook, suggesting parents are paying attention.

Rob Minkoff (“The Lion King”) directs, and Alex Schwartz and Denise Nolan Cascino are the producers. Tiffany Ward, daughter of Jay Ward, one of the creators of the original series, is the executive producer.

The PG-rated “Mr. Peabody” comes in with some momentum from abroad, having already taken in $40 million in two weeks and recorded a No. 1 debut in the U.K.

It will be in very healthy 3,800 theaters this weekend.

On the specialty front, writer-director Wes Anderson‘s R-rated ensemble comedy “The Grand Budapest Hotel” will make its debut in two New York and two Los Angeles theaters.

grand-budapestAlso read: Wes Anderson’s ‘Grand Budapest Hotel': Director Made Fully Animated Version Before Shooting Film

Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham, Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan and Tilda Swinton are among the cast members. “Grand Budapest” recounts the adventures of a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

It’s Anderson’s first film since “Moonrise Kingdom,” a low-budget comedy that became a sleeper hit in 2012 with $68 million in worldwide grosses.