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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Welcome to the July crush. Eight wide releases will hit North American theaters during the next three sessions, including three on Friday: the superhero sequel "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," the 3-D adventure release "Journey to the Center of the Earth," and the Eddie Murphy comedy "Meet Dave."
Each targets a somewhat different prospective audience. Yet with strong competition from Will Smith's current champ "Hancock" and the Pixar smash "WALL-E," somebody's movie is going to get hurt.
It probably won't be Universal's "Hellboy," which should open at No. 1, possibly earning more than $30 million during its first three days.
Sony released the first adaptation of the "Hellboy" graphic novel series in April 2004. It opened to $23.2 million, en route to $59.6 million domestically and $99.3 million worldwide. The sequel is expected to do better business in light of the acclaim for director Guillermo del Toro's 2006 release "Pan's Labyrinth," and the tendency of sequels to outgross originals.
Produced for about $85 million, "Hellboy II" again stars Ron Perlman in the title role. Most support should come from male youngsters, who might have just rushed out to see "Hancock" but always are ready for a new action film.
The $60 million "Journey," starring Brendan Fraser, represents the weekend's strongest family-friendly entry, and should come in somewhere in the teen millions. Warner Bros. will release the New Line/Walden Media production on fewer than 1,000 3-D screens -- a low number considering that the whole point of the movie is to show it in the growing format -- with almost twice that number of conventional playdates.
Fox's "Meet Dave" -- toting production costs of almost $60 -- has potentially the broadest appeal of the new releases. Emphasis on the word "potentially." Prerelease tracking has been soft on "Dave," and its weekend haul looks likely to be limited to the high-single-digit millions.
"Hancock," meanwhile, should finish at No. 2 in its second weekend with sales of about $28 million, assuming a sales drop of 55 percent.