Forecast: 'Pain and Gain' to Flex Modest Box Office Muscles
A week ahead of Iron Man 3's debut—and the launch of the Summer movie season—two comparatively modest movies are opening nationwide this weekend. On the strength of its star power and energetic marketing, Pain and Gain should wind up close to $20 million, while The Big Wedding is poised for about half as much. Overall, this weekend will likely be a quiet one as audiences brace for the higher profile fare coming up.

Opening at 3,277 locations, Pain and Gain has a legitimate chance at claiming the top spot this weekend ahead of holdover Oblivion. The bodybuilder thriller—based on a very bizarre true story—is director Michael Bay's first non-Transformers movie since 2005's The Island, and it appears to be a return to the mix of gritty humor and violence that characterized his debut feature Bad Boys. Add in Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg, who both appear to be right in their wheelhouse here, and this movie is loaded with box office heavy-hitters.

Paramount's marketing hasn't rested on the stars alone, especially given that Wahlberg's Broken City and The Rock's Snitch didn't exactly light the box office on fire. Paramount has rolled out intense, eye-catching commercials that emphasize the "true story" aspect and highlight the movie's stylized action, vibrant setting, and off-color humor. Still, the movie's satirical approach ("Their American Dream is Bigger Than Yours") is likely to turn off some audiences, and it's hard to imagine many women turning out for such a macho, violent outing.

Add in the fact that many audience members might be inclined to save their money for Iron Man 3 next weekend, and it's likely that Pain and Gain will fall short of truly impressive numbers. Paramount is currently expecting high-teen-millions, though it wouldn't be surprising if Pain and Gain wound up grossing north of $20 million this weekend.

With Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton and many more, The Big Wedding is surely a star-studded affair. Unfortunately, distributor Lionsgate never really figured out what to do with the movie, which falls outside of its wheelhouse (in much the same way as last year's disappointment What to Expect When You're Expecting). They originally scheduled The Big Wedding in October 2012, and they've executed a fairly light marketing campaign around the new release date. While the wedding genre is extremely popular, it does have plenty of misses including The Five-Year Engagement, which opened to just $10.6 million on the same weekend last year. A similar debut for The Big Wedding appears likely.

In moderate release, Roadside Attractions is opening Mud at 363 theaters this weekend. The Jeff Nichols movie, which stars Matthew McConaughey, hasn't received a huge promotion push, though it should get a bit of a boost from its excellent 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. An opening north of $1 million is almost a guarantee, which means the movie could make it in to the Top 12.

Colin Firth-Emily Blunt romantic comedy Arthur Newman also debuts in moderate release (around 250 theaters) this weekend. Without much marketing and with a fairly inexperienced distributor (Cinedigm) it's hard to gauge how the movie will perform, though it would be surprising if it cracked $1 million.

More important than the domestic box office this weekend is the overseas one, which sees Iron Man 3 open in most markets (with the exception of China, Russia, and a few others). The movie will earn at least $100 million through Sunday, and should have no problem crushing its predecessor's $312 million foreign gross (though matching The Avengers's $888.4 million is going to be way out of reach).

Forecast (April 26-28)

1. Pain and Gain - $21.9 million

2. Oblivion - $19.5 million (-47%)

3. 42 - $12.1 million (-32%)

4. The Big Wedding - $9.9 million

5. The Croods - $5.9 million (-36%)

Bar for Success

With a huge theater count, tons of star power and an energetic marketing effort, anything under $20 million will be disappointing for Pain and Gain. Meanwhile, The Big Wedding will be fine with anything above $15 million.

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