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Aaron Paul’s ‘Need for Speed’ Battles ‘300’ Sequel for Testosterone Crowd at Box Office

Muscle cars and Greek warriors fight for young males, while ”Veronica Mars“ debuts limited and Tyler Perry releases his last for Lionsgate

“Need for Speed,” the video game-based muscle car movie starring Aaron Paul of TV’s “Breaking Bad,” will try to drive “300: Rise of an Empire” from the top spot at the box office this weekend — while “Veronica Mars,” the crowd-funding craze’s biggest film to date, starts its limited run.

“Need for Speed’ might have a narrow edge for the top spot. DreamWorks’ octane-fueled action film could hit $25 million, say the analysts and distributor Disney. But if Warner Bros.’ R-rated sword-sand-sandals saga hangs on to a little more than  half of the $45 million that it debuted at No. 1 with last week, it will be right there, too.

Tyler Perry‘s Single Mom’s Club,” the weekend’s other wide opener, is projected to debut with around $15 million for Lionsgate. DreamWorks Animation’s “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” should have a second week in that range as well.

With “Need for Speed,” “Rise of an Empire” and Liam Neeson‘s “Non-Stop” all playing, there is a lot of testosterone — and films for young men are the primary demographic target — in the marketplace right now.

Also read: ‘Need for Speed’ Review: Aaron Paul Can’t Get This Vehicle Off the Lot

“This will be the third straight week a male-skewing action movie has come out,” said BoxOffice.com vice-president and senior analyst Phil Contrino. “At some point, fatigue has to set in for young males.'”

But if the millions of people who have played the “Need for Speed” video games for the past decade turn out, it won’t be this weekend. Electronic Arts, the company that launched the car racing series in 1994, co-financed the $66 million movie along with DreamWorks partner Reliance Entertainment and Disney’s Touchstone. But mobilizing those masses is not a given.

Angelina Jolie‘s “Laura Croft: Tomb Raider” remains the highest-grossing video game-based movie with $275 million worldwide, and it came out 10 years ago. Paul W. Anderson’s “Resident Evil” spawned a franchise, but there have been far more misses, including “Silent Hill,” “Max Payne,” “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” “Doom” and “Super Mario Brothers.”

“With the practical (rather than CGI) stunts and 3D, it’s designed to give you that behind-the-wheel experience,” said Disney’s distribution chief Dave Hollis. “We think that’s going to appeal very much to the gamer crowd.” The Thursday night numbers — screenings will start at 8 p.m. — will be an early indicator of whether “Need for Speed” will connect with the console crowd.

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None of the hugely popular “Fast and Furious” car movies, to which “Need for Speed” will inevitably be compared, were done in 3D. That could help the new film at the overseas box office, where 3D remains a powerful draw. Disney is opening “Need for Speed” in roughly 30 foreign markets this weekend, including China and the U.K.

Comparisons might keep some devoted “F&F” fans away in the U.S., but DreamWorks and Disney would love to see it connect with the Hispanic audiences that have helped drive Universal’s $2 billion-dollar franchise.

Scott Waugh (“Act of Valor”) directs, from a script by George and John Gatins. Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Kid Cudi, Ramon Rodriguez co-star, along with Michael Keaton.

“Need for Speed” is doing OK on social media, but the critics are unimpressed and it’s at 33 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Disney, which is distributing as part of its deal with DreamWorks, will have the PG-13 “Need for Speed” in more than 3,115 theaters, 2,805 — or 90 percent — of which will be 3D.

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“Single Moms Club” is the last film from Perry that Lionsgate will release, at least for now. The two didn’t renew their deal, which runs out with this film, but left the door open for future collaborations.

His first was 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” — in which he debuted his righteous drag granny character Madea — and since then he’s written, directed, produced and/or starred in 14 modestly budgeted films for the studio. On average, they’ve brought in about $50 million domestically and together have grossed nearly $750 million without playing overseas.

single-mom-clubThere’s no Madea in “Single Mom’s Club,” but the comedy-drama will feature Perry’s usual inspirational themes along with the laughs. Nia Long, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao, Cocoa Brown, Amy Smart and Terry Crews star.

It’s tracking to open in line with Perry’s previous non-Madea movies. His last release was December’s “Tyler Perry‘s a Madea Christmas,” which opened with $16 million and brought in $52 million domestically.

The critics haven’t weighed in, but Perry’s films typically aren’t screened before their release. “Single Moms” is doing just OK on social media. It’s not far behind where “About Last Night,” the Kevin Hart romantic comedy, was on Twitter prior to its debut, but trails it significantly on Facebook.

The PG-13 “Singles Moms Club” will be in roughly 1,800 theaters.

Also read: ‘Veronica Mars’ Ultimate Review: TheWrap’s Movie Critic and Senior TV Writer’s Dual Takes (Video)

Jason Bateman‘s directorial debut “Bad Words” and the crowd-funded and TV-inspired “Veronica Mars” highlight the week’s specialty box-office releases.

“Veronica Mars,” which its followers brought to the big screen with a record-breaking Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign, will open in 291 mainly AMC theaters on Friday via Warner Bros.

It is almost one year to the day after fans of the TV show — which ended its three-season run on UPN and the CW in 2007 — hit their $2 million funding goal in record time.

Besides star Kristen Bell, who reprises her TV role as the teen sleuth, the film features series alums Jason Dohring, Percy Daggs, Tina Majorino, Francis Capra, Ryan Hansen and Krysten Ritter. Creator Rob Thomas directs from a script he co-wrote with Diane Rugiero.

“Veronica Mars,” which has a strong 77 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, will also become available for download on Friday via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Focus Features is rolling out Bateman’s R-rated black comedy “Bad Words” in six theaters. Andrew Dodge wrote the script, which features Bateman as a 40-year-old who finds a loophole in the rules of a national spelling bee and hijacks the competition.