"Inception" dreams up big box office despite doubts

Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:22pm EDT
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A pair of heat-seeking pictures hitting multiplexes this week could push the temperature higher at the summer box office in North America.

The costly Leonardo DiCaprio effects thriller "Inception" opens Friday, while the Nicolas Cage family fantasy "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" got a head start on Wednesday.

"Inception" should fetch a fat $50 million-$60 million through Sunday, and "Inception" appears on target to land as much as $30 million through its first five days.

But both wide openers arrive on the scene wrapped in separate bits of intrigue. "Inception" has industryites wondering whether Warner Bros. can turn critics' rave reviews into a broadly successful bow for director Christoper Nolan's $180 million, 148-minute follow-up to "The Dark Knight." Many expect big grosses in major markets on the coasts, at least.

"Everybody is waiting to see if 'Inception' can play in the middle of the country," a rival executive said. "I don't care if you're an exhibitor or a distributor, you have to wonder about that right now."

Not to worry, Warners Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman said. "The movie continues to get tremendous reviews, which will add to the tremendous momentum that the picture has been building," he said.

Cage stars in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" as a master sorcerer seeking to face down his archnemesis (Alfred Molina) with assistance from an every-day guy (Jay Baruchel). Directed by Jon Turteltaub (Cage's "National Treasure" hits), the Disney picture essentially is an 108-minute riff on a character from the 1940 Disney classic "Fantasia."

"We're looking at the first two days as sneak previews, hoping to spread the word-of-mouth," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said.   Continued...