‘Super 8’ Opens to $12.1M Friday, On Pace for Solid $35M+ Weekend

BOX OFFICE: J.J. Abrams’ retro homage to producer Steven Spielberg overcomes soft pre-release forecasts

Saturday update:

Leave it to a movie called “Super 8” to break up the monotony of the summer of super-hero movie.

Boasting a familiar yet long lost kids-save-the-day story – a hallmark of Steven Spielberg films back in the day – Paramount’s “Super 8” grossed an estimated $12.1 million at the Friday box office.

That will put the $50 million film – directed by J.J. Abrams, produced by Spielberg and featuring a largely no-name cast – on pace to easily beat downbeat pre-release forecasts, some of which pegged the film at below $25 million for the weekend.

Counting Thursday preview screenings, which netted about $1 million for “Super 8,” the movie about a subterranean homesick alien (credit for Radiohead here?) should easily surpass $35 million for the weekend.

Never ones to toot their own horns, TheWrap’s hardworking platoon of box office research trolls – an irascible but dedicated bunch — quietly predicted a $35 million-plus opening.

“Super 8” should easily win the head-to-head battle for the No. 1 spot domestically this weekend, with Fox’s incumbent champ “X-Men: First Class” getting a solid second-week drop of under 50 percent and grossing an estimated $8 million on Friday.

Also opening wide this weekend, kids movie “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” – distributed by Relativity under service deal – grossed just over $2.2 million this weekend.

Relativity and box-office trackers outside the studio predicted an opening of somewhere around $6 million for the girl-targeted youth-novel adaptation, which stars Heather Graham and was independently produced for around $20 million. Not a bad start for a small film.

Finally, Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," distributed by Sony Classics, grossed $1.6 million Friday while expanding to 944 locations. The film will suprass $10 million this weekend.

Thursday preview:

After catching heat this spring with a steady supply of sequels, the domestic box office is preparing to usher in — wait for it — a movie based on an original concept with no previously established brand equity!

Well, that’s not really true. Paramount sci-fi thriller “Super 8” arrives in 3,379 2D-equipped theaters this weekend armed with the rather spectacular pedigree of writer-director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg.

Also Read: 'Super 8': Youthful Wonder, Not So Scary Monsters

But the cast is largely unknown, and the story is brand new.

With tracking soft — total awareness stood at a sleepy 68 percent across all audience quadrants as of Wednesday, according to research firm NRG — some rival-studio data crunchers are predicting an opening under $25 million for the film.

For its part, Paramount officials deny rival-studio assertions that they’ve made major last-minute additional-TV-time purchases. But there is reason to suspect the film — which the studio says was shot for around $50 million — will surpass studio expectations, which range from about $25 million- $30 million.

For one, "Super 8" has the kind of reviews you’d expect from something that has the names Abrams and Spielberg attached to it, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring it at 81 percent as of late-day Thursday.

Wrote film critic Leonard Maltin: “If you're wondering what's missing from so many big-budget, effects-driven Hollywood movies, the answer lies in J.J. Abrams' ‘Super 8’: heart and passion."

Also Read: 'Super 8': Meet the Young Stars of J.J. Abrams' Retro Movie

Another reason to suspect the film will over-perform: it has the names Abrams and Spielberg attached to it.

“I think there’s going to be more of a need to see this film than people are counting on,” said another rival-studio official.

Only one other movie opens widely this weekend, with Relativity Media premiering the 6-11-year-old girl-targeted “Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer” in 2,524 North American locations, again, all equipped for 2D.

The youth-novel adaptation, which stars Heather Graham, was shot by Smokewood Entertainment for around $20 million and is being distributed by Relativity under rent-a-system deal in the U.S. (Maple Pictures is handling Canadian distribution.)

The studio is expecting an opening weekend of around $6 million, a forecast well-supported by pre-release tracking.

Also notable: Woody Allen’sMidnight in Paris,” which has grossed nearly $8 million playing in very limited release, will expand into more than 900 domestic locations this weekend.

Another indie getting limited release this weekend: IFC will debut Michael Winterbottom-directed comedy “The Trip,” which stars Steve Coogan, in six big-city locations.