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Brad Pitt Tank Saga ‘Fury’ Ready to Rumble Past ‘Gone Girl’ at Box Office

Sony’s R-rated WWII action film should also outpace the animated ”Book of Life“ and the Nicholas Sparks romance ”The Best of Me“

Brad Pitt‘s World War II saga “Fury” is expected to rumble to the top of the box office this weekend, ending the two-week run of “Gone Girl” at No. 1.

The R-rated tale of a U.S. tank team behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany opens Friday and will take in around $25 million, the analysts say. That should be enough to top the weekend’s two other wide openers, the 3D computer-animated family film “Book of Life” and the Nicholas Sparks adaptation “Best of Me,” which are expected to bring in around $15 million and between $12 million and $14 million, respectively.

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If the murder mystery directed by David Fincher and Ben Affleck holds as well as it did last weekend, “Gone Girl” will again be among the leaders. It’s up to nearly $85 million domestically and is approaching $150 million worldwide for New Regency and distributor Fox as it heads into its third weekend.

“Fury” marks Pitt’s first big-screen lead role since “World War Z” last summer, though he had supporting gigs in “12 Years a Slave” and “The Counselor.” David Ayer (“Sabotage”) wrote and directed “Fury,” which stars Pitt as commander Don “Wardaddy” Collier, who leads his Sherman tank crew behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany. Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lehrman, Michael Pena, John Bernthal, Jason Isaacs and Scott Eastwood co-star.

Also read: ‘Fury’ Review: Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf Wage Tank Warfare With Savage Grace

Males are the demographic target for the gritty war saga, which is at 70 percent positive on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. On Twitter and Facebook,  it’s pacing ahead of “The Monuments Men,” George Clooney‘s WWII art heist tale that opened to $22 million in February and took in $80 million domestically and $155 million worldwide for Sony. “Fury” and “Gone Girl” were 1-2 in advance sales on Wednesday morning at online ticket broker Fandango.

Sony last year acquired worldwide rights to QED International’s “Fury,” which had a $68 million production budget. Bill Block, John Lesher, Alex Ott, Ethan Smith and Ayer are producers on the film. It will be in 3,155 theaters.

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book-lifeThe PG-rated “The Book of Life,” which was written and directed by Jorge Guitterez, was produced by Reel FX Animation Studios and is co-financed and distributed by Fox. Guillermo del Toro is a producer, along with Aaron Berger, Brad Booker and Carina Schulze.

Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube and Ron Perlman top the voice cast for “The Book of Life,” which follows young Manolo Sanchez (Luna) as he journeys to the underworld to win the heart of Maria (Saldana).

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It’s the second film from Reel FX, which had a hit last November with “Free Birds,” another modestly budgeted animated film that took in $110 million via Relativity Media.

On social media, “The Book of Life” is pacing a little behind “The Boxtrolls,” another animated movie that debuted to $17 million three weeks ago. “Book of Life” is aimed at Hispanic families, whose strength doesn’t always register on tracking or social media, so it could over-perform. There aren’t many reviews yet, but they’ve been good and it’s at 89 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes. It will be in roughly 3,000 theaters.

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The Best Of MeThe romance “The Best of Me” is the ninth big-screen adaptation of a Sparks bestseller and the third for Relativity Media, following “Safe Haven” and “Dear John.”

Relativity, Sparks and DiNovi Productions teamed on “The Best of Me,” which is directed by Michael Hoffman (“The Last Station”) and adapted by Will Fetters and J. Mills Goodloe. It features Michelle Monaghan, Liana Liberato, Luke Bracey and James Marsden, who got the call to play the male lead a month after the November 2013 death of Paul Walker, who was originally set to star.

“The Best of Me” tells the story of Dawson (Marsden) and Amanda (Monaghan), two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend.

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Denise DiNovi, Alison Greenspan, Theresa Park and Sparks produced the $26 million “The Best of Me,” with Tucker Tooley, Robbie Brenner, Ron Burkle and Jason Colbeck serving as executive producers.

A $12 million opening weekend would be among the lowest for a Sparks adaptation, but several of his films have started slowly and gone on to healthy returns. His most recent film, “Safe Haven,” opened to $21 million on Valentine’s Day weekend last year and went on to take in $71 million for Relativity. “The Notebook” debuted with $13 million in 2004 and went on to become the highest-grossing Sparks film of all, with $81 million domestically.

“The Best of Me” is doing OK on social media, pacing ahead of “Safe Haven” on Facebook, but trailing it on Twitter. Relativity will have it in roughly 2,800 theaters in the U.S., with eOne handling distribution in Canada. Relativity is also distributing overseas.