Updated 8:32 a.m. PT Saturday
"Puss in Boots" is in position to break the record for best Halloween weekend opening ever — but with a smaller take than many box-office watchers had predicted.
The DreamWorks Animation film grossed about $9.56 million on Friday, according to rival-studio estimates. That puts the 3D movie on track to take in just more than $35 million for the weekend.
DreamWorks has said it would be happy with anything more than $33.6 million, which is the record for the Halloween weekend. But some box-office watchers outside the studio were far less conservative with their estimates, and predicted the film would exceed $40 million.
Early estimates have "Paranormal Activity 3," a holdover from last week, in second place, grossing $6.52 million on Friday and $18.6 million for the weekend.
Those estimates show Fox's "In Time" taking $4.23 million on Friday and about $12 million for the weekend and FilmDistrict's "The Rum Diary" pulling in only about $2 million on Friday for a disappointing weekend of less than $6 million.
Can DreamWorks Animation's new "Shrek" spin-off "Puss in Boots" fight of the ogres on Wall Street this weekend?
DreamWorks Animation's share prices have been steadily pounded with each animated feature release over the last 18 months, starting with the $43.7 million opening last year for "How to Train Your Dragon."
For its part, "Puss in Boots" is being tracked by outside box-office watchers to take in roughly that same amount this weekend when it opens at 3,952 theaters (although executives for DreamWorks and distribution partner Paramount offer more conservative guesses of around $35 million).
By October standards, that would be exceptional, breaking the Halloween-weekend record that Lionsgate's "Saw III" set when it opened to $33.6 million in 2006.
As for the $130 million animated spin-off impressing Wall Street? Well, DWA stock has to stop sliding at some point.
"Puss in Boots" won't open alone.
Fox’s PG-13 sci-fi thriller “In Time,” starring Justin Timberlake, is projected to gross somewhere in the mid-teens. FilmDistrict’s R-rated Johnny Depp film “The Rum Diary,” an adaptation of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, is tracking in the high single digits.
Also making limited openings: Sony's Roland Emmerich-directed "Anonymous" will start out in 250 locations; and Paramount will debut Sundance award-winner "Like Crazy" in four L.A. and NYC art houses.
Yet another factor at the weekend box office: last weekend's champ, Paramount's "Paranormal Activity 3."
If “Paranormal” drops more than 50 percent from its opening weekend, it’ll still bring in well over $20 million.
While Paramount's viral-horror franchise will still command plenty of attention over the pre-Halloween-weekend frame, the weekend's big film is "Puss in Boots."
And sure, Wall Street has taken it to DreamWorks for not opening films like "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Shrek 4" bigger, but DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg noted the movies have gone on to surpass global expectations upon completion of their theatrical runs.
“It’s not where we start, but where we finish that’s going to count. We learned with ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’” Katzenberg said.
“Dragon" ultimately grossed $495 million worldwide.
Antonio Banderas’s sword-fighting “Puss in Boots” kittie character was introduced to viewers in the successful “Shrek” franchise. The four “Shrek” movies — all released in the month of May — have grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide, but the franchise began to show a little wear and tear in its final installment
Chris Miller (writer and director of the third "Shrek" film) directed “Puss in Boots." The movie also stars the voices of Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris.
It has a strong Rotten Tomatoes score of 80 percent and even stronger audience awareness, according to data from the research firm NRG.
The tracking firm reported that 90 percent of all women have some awareness of the movie, many of them being moms with interested tikes, of course.
Among women older than 25, 43 percent report “definite interest" in seeing the movie, and 11 percent of that group describe it as their "first choice" to see next time they're at the movies.
Fox, meanwhile, is counting on Justin Timberlake to deliver a hit.
The actor stars in “In Time,” which Andrew Niccol directed, and is projected to gross between $13 million – $17 million over the weekend.
It had a budget estimated at $40 million.
The PG-13 rated sci-fi film about a future in which people stop aging at 25, but can buy their way to immortal youth, opens at 3,122 locations.
Reviews are soft, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring the film at 37 percent fresh.
According to NRG, the traction is among women: 73 percent of those younger than 25 were aware of the movie. Among that demographic, 42 percent reported definite interest in seeing the movie.
Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde and Alex Pettyfer also star.
Finally, there’s FilmDistrict’s “The Rum Diary,” an R-rated adaptation of Hunter Thompson’s novel.
FilmDistrict is hoping that a combination of Johnny Depp’s star power and Hunter Thompson’s legend will drive audiences into 2,273 theaters.
Executives for the distribution company say they have modest expectations of around $9 million for the $45 million film. Outside estimates range from $8.5 million to $10 million.
Bruce Robinson directed the movie, which also stars Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi.
Rotten Tomatoes aggregated the film at 54 percent as of late-day Thursday.