Box Office Preview: How Much Will "Wolverine" Claw Up This Weekend?

With the midnight release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, summer movie season has officially begun. 20th Century Fox has a lot at stake this summer: 2008 was a disastrous year for the studio at the box office and over the summer Fox failed to release a single film that grossed more than $100 million domestically. So it’s fitting that the studio kicks off 2009’s summer movie season with its first shot at the sort of summer success it last enjoyed with The Simpsons Movie back in 2007.

Wolverine is obviously expected to take the top spot this weekend, but just how much of an impact will the film’s piracy (and subsequent misinformation) and not so great reviews (38% freshness rating on have on its box-office performance during this first frame? Fox is opening the movie in more than 4,000 theatres, its widest bow ever. But the studio is publicly trying to lower expectations, claiming it will be happy with anything above $70 million for the $130 million movie. Still Wolverine‘s outstanding tracking could put its three-day total as high as $92 million, which is what Slashfilm predicts the film will earn. Entertainment Weekly and the LA Times meanwhile are projecting an $85 million weekend. Both totals would be below Iron Man‘s $98.6 million opening the first weekend of May last year. Wolverine also might not have the same sort of legs as Marvel’s 2008 hit, making this first weekend even more important.

Warner Bros. New Line Cinema’s Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is hoping to draw the girls (and boys) more interested in a romantic comedy than a comic book-based action movie. The counterprogramming film is also getting some dire reviews, and we grew concerned about the quality of the film when Jennifer Garner was reduced to pitching it as “a really good movie” on David Letterman this week. But our experts think Garner and costar Matthew McConaughey’s audience appeal could push it to a $15 million20 million debut on par with last year’s Iron Man alternative Made of honour, which grossed $14.8 million in its first three days. With no other romantic comedies being released for a while, this $50 million film could continue to do well over the next few weeks.

The only other wide release this weekend is Lionsgate’s animated Battle for Terra, featuring the voice of Justin Long, among others. The 3-D sci fi film hasn’t been marketed much and it’s only opening in 1159 theatres, so experts are predicting only a $3 million bow.

The rest of this week’s top five should consist of holdovers Obsessed, 17 Again and Earth.

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