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‘Turbo’ Battles Family-Film Fatigue With Early Box-Office Start

DreamWorks Animation's 3D race-car spoof opens Wednesday and follows hits "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters U"

Can “Turbo” — an animated movie about a snail with the need for speed — find success in a summer box office already crowded with minions, monsters and Smurfs?

DreamWorks Animation and distributor Fox will find out starting Wednesday, when its $135 million 3D kids film hits theaters. It's getting the jump on a box office weekend with three other wide releases debuting Friday: action comedy "Red 2," horror film "The Conjuring" and supernatural action thriller "R.I.P.D."

The PG-rated "Turbo" will  be in more theaters, around 3,500, than any of them. But it’s in a tight spot, coming on the heels of two other animated kids movies — “Monsters University” and “Despicable Me 2” — that have scored big at the box office, and two weeks before Sony rolls out “Smurfs 2.”

Also read: 'Turbo' Review: Going Where Many Other Toons Have Gone Before

All of those other films are sequels, while “Turbo” is an original. That can be a selling point, but also makes marketing tougher — particularly in a summer as crowded as this.

"Parents and kids have been driving the box office for the past month, so at some point we're going to see some family-film fatigue,” said BoxOffice.com editor-in-chief Phil Contrino. “On the other hand, something fresh should have some appeal.”

Also read: Hollywood Blockbusters Losing Luster: They're Off 13% at Foreign Box Office

Projections have the PG-rated snail tale doing around $35 million over the five days. That's not great for a movie with that kind of production budget, but Fox and DreamWorks Animation believe it will find a niche and play through the summer. The reviews are OK (60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and the marketing, which suggests it’s a “Fast and Furious” for kids, seems solid.

Turbo” is an important project for DreamWorks Animation, which is trying to expand its reach beyond movies. A TV series, “Turbo: F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Stunt Team),” will launch on Netflix in December.

DreamWorks Animation's last Fox release, "The Croods," was a hit. The animated prehistoric family tale has brought in $185 million domestically and nearly $400 million overseas since opening to $43 million in March. Fox followed that up with "Epic," an original from its in-house unit Blue Sky Animation, and the tiny heroes tale is up to $105 million domestically and has added $135 million abroad. 

Both had the family market to themselves. "Turbo" won't.

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Ryan Reynolds tops the voice cast as Turbo; co-stars include Paul Giamatti, Snoop Dogg, Michael Peria, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph and Samuel L. Jackson.

David Soren came up with the idea for “Turbo” from watching his 6-year-old plays with race cars and front-yard snails. Making his directing debut, he shares the writing credit with Robert Siegel and Darren Lemke.

A lot of the action takes place at the Indianapolis 500, and four-time IndyCar Series champ Dario Franchitti is on board as a technical adviser.