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Tom Hardy’s ‘Mad Max’ vs Rebel Wilson-Anna Kendrick ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ in Battle of Sexes at Box Office

Males will drive the motor mayhem epic, women the musical comedy — and both should hit $40 million to end “Avengers: Age of Ultron” reign

Two of summer’s most-anticipated movies — “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Pitch Perfect 2” — clash in a bang-up battle of the sexes at the box office this weekend.

The gender lines are clearly drawn. George Miller‘s ferocious apocalyptic action saga, which arrives 30 years after the last “Mad Max” movie with Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson, has guys stoked. Rebel Wilson, Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and the Barden Bellas will rock it again in the comedy musical “Pitch Perfect 2,” and the ladies are fired up.

Disney’s Marvel blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron” won’t go down easily, however. The reigning champ has posted the second-best opening and second-best second weekend in history to kick off the summer and should hit $1 billion in worldwide grosses by Sunday, after debuting with $34 million in China on Wednesday.

Warner Bros.’ “Mad Max” and Universal’s “Pitch Perfect 2” will open with late Thursday showings and by Friday they’ll both be in roughly 3,500 theaters. Both will hit $40 million over the three days say the analysts, and no one will be surprised if one or both breaks out. “Age of Ultron” will lose some of its audience to “Mad Max,” but could be in the $35 million range, they believe.

“Max” and the Barden Bellas will be very close, the vital signs indicate.

They’re on top and neck-and-neck in advance sales at Fandango, while “Pitch Perfect 2” has the edge at Movietickets.com. Both are well-reviewed, though “Mad Max” has a sterling 98 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to the 71 percent of “Pitch Perfect.” On social media four days out, “Pitch Perfect” had a monster five million “likes” on Facebook, while “Mad Max” was hotter on Twitter.

“They could both take off,” BoxOffice.com senior analyst Phil Contrino told TheWrap. “This was a strong weekend last year with ‘Godzilla,’ and there hasn’t been a new film in the market for a couple weeks. If there’s an edge, it’s perhaps to ‘Max’ because it feels like something different, but that ‘Pitch Perfect’ fan base is very strong.”

Pitch Perfect 2Given the pronounced gender-skew of the two wide openers, it’s a good bet a lot of couples will be going their separate ways at the multiplex this weekend and meeting after the movie in the lobby. The matchup is similar to the faceoffs between “Fifty Shades of Grey”and “Kingsman: The Secret Service” in February and the 2012 Christmas Day showdown between “Les Miserables” and “Django Unchained.” In both cases, each film performed well but the female-skewing movie won.

“Mad Max” is rated R, and “Pitch Perfect 2” is PG-13, so the broader audience gives the comedy an edge. IMAX Theaters will stick with “Age of Ultron” domestically, and that helps “Pitch Perfect,” too. But Charlize Theron, who stars as the shaven-headed, one-armed Imperator Furiosa in “Mad Max,” could give a boost to that film, which also got a lift from a killer trailer released in March.

charlize theron maxThe presence of Theron, an Oscar winner for 2004’s “Monster,” could lure a significant number of women to Miller’s vehicular manslaughter opera. A Fandango survey of ticket buyers released Wednesday indicated just as many were lured by Theron as her co-star Hardy. Her last outing in a sci-fi film was in Ridley Scott‘s “Prometheus,” which opened to $51 million in June 2012 for Fox.

If “Pitch Perfect 2,” directed by Elizabeth Banks, who also plays a commentator and produces with her husband Max Handelman and Paul Brooks, does hit analysts’ projections this weekend, it will easily double the $14.8 million September 2012 debut of the first film. Cast members Skylar Astin, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp and Adam DeVine return from the original film, and Hailee Steinfeld and Katey Sagal join the ensemble.

“Mad Max” could break out and still be hard-pressed to deliver the bang for the buck that the 1979 original did. With a budget of less than $500,000 it made $100 million in worldwide box office, and remains among the all-time leaders in cost-to-grosses ratio. Nicholas Hoult and Rosie Huntington-Whitely co-star in the update, which Miller also wrote and produced.

One area in which “Mad Max” and “Pitch Perfect” are not close is in cost. Miller’s action epic cost at least $150 million, while the musical comedy was done for $29 million.

The two films are facing off abroad, as well. Warner Bros. is rolling out “Mad Max” on 16,000 screens in 68 foreign countries this weekend. That’s every major market except Japan and China, where it is awaiting a date.

“Mad Max” will play out of competition Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival and that is contributing to its “event” status globally. It looks very strong internationally, where it is expected to bring in more than $500 million by analysts.

“Pitch Perfect 2” will debut day-and-date with 27 foreign territories including the U.K., Germany, Russia and Philippines. The sequel’s plot features an international competition, designed in part to appeal to global audiences.