"Hancock" poised to extend Hollywood hot streak

Wed Jul 2, 2008 6:03pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Hancock," the new Will Smith action movie opening ahead of the July Fourth holiday, seems sure to extend Hollywood's latest hot streak, keeping the U.S. box office on pace to exceed last year's record summer.

Starring Smith as a chronically hung-over, often-reckless superhero, "Hancock" is expected to give Sony Pictures its first No. 1 release of the lucrative season and gross $70 million to $80 million in its opening weekend.

Smith's last movie, dystopian thriller "I Am Legend," raked in a whopping $77.2 million its first weekend in mid-December last year, a career best for the 39-year-old star.

Counting ticket sales from Tuesday evening previews slated for most of the 3,965 theaters showing the film this weekend, the movie's North American tally through Sunday is virtually certain to surpass $100 million, analysts predicted.

Despite mixed early reviews, the film got off to a robust start with Sony reporting nearly $7 million collected from advance screenings Tuesday night.

That's about twice the $3.5 million rung up by Marvel blockbuster "Iron Man" from Thursday previews in 2,000-plus theaters in May, according to distributor Paramount Pictures. "Iron Man" has gone on to gross more than $300 million domestically.

"This is a good sign," Sony executive Rory Bruer said of the promising early returns. "This is where you want to be."

Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracking service Media By Numbers, said weekend business could suffer from Friday falling on July 4, a day many families celebrate by going to cook-outs and fireworks shows rather than theaters.   Continued...

<p>Abigail Breslin in a scene from "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl". REUTERS/Picturehouse/Handout</p>