Friday Box Office: Soft-Punching ‘Real Steel’ No. 1 With $8.5M

DreamWorks’ $110M robot-boxing movie looks like it’ll only hit the mid-20s this weekend; Clooney’s “Ides of March” pacing for around $11M

Saturday update:

Perhaps they should have tweaked the plot to have the robots be boxing brothers who come out of hardscrabble East Coast upbringings?

Regardless, it appears DreamWorks isn't going to get a big $30 million-plus opening out of its boxing robots movie, "Real Steel," despite its popular star, Hugh Jackman, and populist director, Shawn Levy. The film opened to $8.5 million Friday, according to rival-studio estimates, putting it on pace to gross around $25 million for the weekend.

That would be in line with pre-release estimates from distributor Disney. Given the film's robust $110 million budget — as well as "Night of the Museum" director Levy's recent solid track record at the box office — there were hopes externally that the film could break out to beyond $30 million in weekend No. 1. 

With the PG-13-rated "Real Steel" tracking best among boys and young men, however, there's still the potential for a big Saturday.

The weekend's other notable wide release, George Clooney's "Ides of March," opened to $3.4 million, according to rival-studio data — the Sony Oscar hopeful is on pace for around $10 million – $11 million, on the low side of pre-release estimates outside the studio.

TheWrap will have its usual full box-office breakdown Sunday morning.

Thursday preview:

Star power will be in no short supply at the weekend box office, with Hugh Jackman headlining DreamWorks' robot-boxing movie, "Real Steel," and Ryan Gosling starring in a political drama written by, directed by, and co-starring George Clooney.

The art houses, meanwhile, will be filled up with new small films: among them, Weinstein's "Dirty Girl" starring Milla Jovovich and William H. Macy, and PG-13 adventure-comedy "The Way," which was written and directed by Emilio Estevez, and co-stars his brother, the indomitable Charlie Sheen.

Oh, and a sequel to 2010's very sick "Human Centipede" will debut in 18 theaters.

It's widely assumed that "Real Steel" will lead the box office this weekend — the question is, can DreamWorks and its new distribution partner, Disney, open the movie well enough to offset a production budget of $110 million?

Also read: Review: Even Hugh Jackman Can't Save the Gooey, Clanky 'Real Steel'

Estimates outside the studios — those on the high side — predict that the PG-13-rated film will open to around $30 million. Disney's own projections come in at around $23 million – $25 million.

Given the cost, pre-release tracking is just OK. The strongest traction for the film is among young males, 76 percent of which know about the film, according to the latest surveys from research firm NRG. Among this group, a solid 54 percent report "definite interest" in "Real Steel," while a very good 21 percent call it their "first choice."

Unfortunately, the data among female groups is much weaker, but their first-choice listing doesn't always factor in when excited sons want some hot robot action.

Reviews are middling but not terrible — the film was ranking at 59 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of midday Thursday.

Based on a book by Richard Matheson — the guy who wrote "I Am Legend" and "Duel" — the near-futuristic film stars Jackman as a failed human boxer, who with the help of his son, trains a robot to contend in the ol' mixed android martial arts ring.

The word "dystopian" gets thrown around a lot with source material like this. DreamWorks conscously worked to offset bleak approach with the hiring of Levy, a commercially savvy director of family-oriented films like Fox's "Night at the Museum" franchise.

Also read: Review: Idealism Gets Assassinated in Clooney's 'Ides of March'

Starting with 2002 Frankie Muniz family comedy "Big Fat Liar," and continuing onto bigger broad-skewing comedies like last year's "Date Night," Levy hasn't had a bomb yet.

Unfortunately, outside of his "X-Men"/"Wolverine" work for Fox, Jackman's track record at the multiplex is a little spottier.

"Real Steel" will open up in 3,440 theaters.

"Ides of March," meanwhile, arrives in 2,199 North American locations Friday with good reviews — 79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with a few critical precincts still trickling in.

Produced through Clooney's Smokehouse Productions at a cost of around $18 million and based on Beau Willimon's political-campaign-focused play "Farragut North," "Ides" has a rather conspicuous cast.

Indeed, lead man Gosling, who plays a campaign staffer, and Clooney (the candidate) are joined by Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Max Minghella.

"Ides of March" is tracking best with older females (well, older than 25 anyway), with NRG reporting 71 percent "total awareness" among women in that group. Also for that quadrant, definite interest comes in at a strong 43 percent and first choice a solid 12 percent.

Pre-release predictions for the film's opening are at around $12 million – $14 million.

Of course, with Halloween only weeks away, those cinema buffs who wish to delve into the darker regions of the human psyche might crave something a little spicier.

Also read: Review: 'Dirty Girl' a Fun Ride Down a Familiar Road

IFC has them covered with "The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence," a meta extrapolation of the first "HC." The sequel follows a deranged DVD watcher of the fictional part one, who's home video experience convinces him to take this franchise's seriously awful concept to an entirely new level.

For those who didn't think popular culture had anything left to truly shock, disgust and offend with, filmmaker Tom Six has proven you wrong.

The unrated film debuts in 18 North American locations this weekend.