“Deadpool,” the Fox action film starring Ryan Reynolds as the Marvel Comics superhero with a boulder on his shoulder, is expected to dominate the Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day weekend box office and could hit $70 million.
Fox’s projections are about $10 million lower, but analysts see Marvel’s first hard-R-rated superhero movie cruising past “Kung Fu Panda 3” and the two other films opening wide this weekend, “Zoolander 2” and “How to Be Single.”
Paramount’s Ben Stiller fashion comedy will finish in the mid- to high-$20 million range for the four days, while Warner Bros.’ ensemble romantic comedy starring Rebel Wilson and Dakota Johnson is heading for the mid-$20 million range.
Valentine’s Day, which lands on Sunday, could determine how high “Deadpool” goes, Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson told TheWrap. “How to Be Single” is aimed squarely at women, and how many of them bring dates on Sunday — or opt instead for “Deadpool” — will shape the weekend.
“The extent to which it crosses over and becomes an all-audience film will have a lot to do with it,” he said. Last year, Fox drew a solid percentage of females to the male-skewing “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” enabling it to open a strong second to “Fifty Shades of Grey” on this mid-February weekend.
“Deadpool” has been a favorite of Marvel fans since his debut as a villain in 1991, and the project has been in development for more than a decade. Reynolds has been set as the super antihero from the outset and was featured briefly in Fox’s “X-Men Origins” in 2009, the year the studio picked up the rights in turnaround from New Line.
“Deadpool” wasn’t raced to the big screen because of several development hiccups and was seen as a tricky property to market and distribute given the dark, quirky tendencies of the character. Despite the challenge of marketing a hard-R-rated comic-book movie, Fox gained major momentum last year when test footage from the special effects firm Blur Studios leaked online and drew a very positive response from fans.
Also distinguishing “Deadpool” is its $50 million production budget, less than half that of most superhero movies. Tim Miller, an Oscar nominee for his animated short film “Gopher Broke,” is making his feature directing debut. Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller and Gina Carano co-star in the film, produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg and Reynolds.
Some of its social media metrics are higher than those of the Disney blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy,” another Marvel release based on lesser-known characters, and the critics like it (82 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes). It will be in roughly 3,557 theaters, including a full run of 374 IMAX theaters and 475 Premium Large Format screens.
“Zoolander 2” returns Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell from the original film, which opened to $15 million in September of 2001 but became a huge hit on DVD. Penelope Cruz and Kristen Wiig join the cast of the sequel, which is directed by Stiller from a screenplay written by Justin Theroux, Stiller, John Hamburg and Nicholas Stoller.
Zoolander (Stiller) and his power pout attempt to stave off a bid for world domination by an evil mastermind in the comedy, produced for $50 million by Red Hour and Scott Rudin Productions. Stuart Cornfeld, Clayton Townsend, Rudin and Stiller produce.
“Zoolander 2” hasn’t been screened for critics, but its social media signs are encouraging, running ahead of those of “Anchorman 2.” It will be in roughly 3,300 theaters.
“How to Be Single” is a romantic comedy, a dying species in Hollywood, aimed directly at women. The ensemble includes Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, Jason Mantzoukas and Damon Wayans, as well as Wilson and Johnson. Christian Ditter directs from a script written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein and based on the novel of the same name by Liz Tuccillo.
Distributor Warner Bros. will have it in roughly 3,250.