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Hugh Jackman’s ‘The Wolverine’ to Stop the Bleeding at the Box Office

Fox's "X-Men" superhero sequel is the weekend's lone wide opener and could hit $75M

Fox's Hugh Jackman superhero sequel “The Wolverine” is a lock to win the box office this weekend in the $75 milion range, snaping a four-week run of high-priced summer flops. The only question: how high it will go?

Since Brad Pitt‘s “World War Z” opened to a surprisingly strong $66 million on June 21, pricey blockbuster-wannabes “White House Down,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Pacific Rim” and "R.I.P.D.” have all tnked in successive weeks.

So why will “The Wolverine,” which was converted to 3D and has a production budget of $115 million, succeed where they failed?

Also read: 10 Superhero Sequels That Soared – or Sank – at the Box Office (Photos)

For one thing, as the only wide opener in a market-high 3,924 theaters (3,063 3D), it will have the field largely to itself when it opens with late Thursday night showings. Last week’s No. 1 movie, the low-budget horror film “The Conjuring,” is the likely runner-up, but it’s looking at a three-day total in the $20 million range.

Fox President of Distribution Chris Aronson was about $10 million less bullish than the analysts, but he was confident.

“We’re set up with a relatively clear weekend, and that’s precious in the summer time,” he told TheWrap, “and it doesn't hurt that this is a really good movie.”

Thanks to large part to Jackman, last seen on screen in "Les Miserables" as as Jean Valjean, "The Wolverine" should play well beyond Marvel Comics fans, of which there are plenty. (Jackman had a scene in "Movie 43," but no one saw that.)

Also read: Bombs! Flops! Duds! How the Summer Box Office Could Still Be Biggest Ever

This time the X-Man lands in Japan, where he encounters a crime syndicate and an old flame in Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).

Unlike the recent misfires, it’s a sequel — the sixth in the X-Men film series — and follows the events of 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand."

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” opened to $85 million and went on to take in nearly $375 million worldwide in 2009. The new movie may not match the debut or domestic numbers of that one, but it should do better overseas. It's opening in more than 100 foreign countries this weekend, in Japan on Sept. 13 and in China once it gets a date.

Also read: 'The Wolverine' Reviews: Were the Critics' Claws Out for Hugh Jackman's Hairy Sequel?

The reviews are strong, particularly for a comic book movie, and it has a 74 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Of the recent misses, only “Pacific Rim” at 72 percent was over 50 percent. And as of Thursday morning, it was accounting for more than half the sales at online ticket broker Fandango.

The PG-13-rated superhero saga is departure for director James Mangold, who is coming off the Western “3:10 to Yuma” and the comedy “Knight and Day.”  Darren Aronofsky was originally set to direct back in 2010, but he left the project. Production was further delayed by  2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan, where it was filming.

Mangold adapted Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s1982 limited series "Wolverine" with screenwriters Chris McQuarrie Scott Frank and Mark Bomback. Hiroyuki Sanada and Will Yun co-star. Lee Lauren Schuler Donner produced, along with Hutch Parker, John Palermo.

On the specialty front, CBS Films is opening the comedy “The To-Do List,” written and directed by Maggie Carey, in 591 theaters.

This is the movie Plaza was promoting when she crashed Will Ferrell’s presentation at the MTV Movie Awards in April, with the movie’s title written on her chest. (For the record, CBS says the stunt was all her idea.)

Women aged 17-34 are the target demographic for the R-rated film, which follows high school girl Brandy Clark (Plaza) who, feeling pressured to become more experienced before she goes to college, makes a list of sexual achievements to accomplish before heading off to college.

Bill Hader Alia Shawkat, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Adam Samberg co-star in the film, which has a 72 percent positve rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Sony Classics, meanwhile, is rolling out the Woody Allen comedy “Blue Jasmine” in six theaters.

Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin and Sally Hawkins star in the PG-13-rated tale of a woman facing a life crisis, who heads to San Francisco and reconnects with her sister. Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg co-star.

This will be a significant week for coming-of-age tale “The Way Way Back.” Fox Searchlight is going nationwide with the comedy, expanding it from 304 to more than 650 theaters.

Steve Carell, Tony Collette and Liam James star in the film, written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. It's taken in more than $5.1 million since opening on July 5.