"The Expendables" eyes brawny box office debut

Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:53pm EDT
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Julia Roberts doesn't have a prayer against Sylvester Stallone at the weekend box office in North America.

Sylvester's all-star mercenary thriller "The Expendables" will outmuscle Roberts' "Eat Pray Love" as well as fellow newcomer "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," giving the venerable action hero one of the biggest openings of his career.

The ensemble actioner -- also featuring Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke and Dolph Lundgren -- is expected to fetch upward of $30 million through Sunday.

"The interest level with our core audience of male moviegoers is extremely high," said David Spitz, president of distribution at Lionsgate, which is handling the U.S. release. "So we have a real shot at having a very solid weekend."

The film, which Stallone also directed and co-wrote, was produced by Avi Lerner's Nu Image/Millennium for more than $85 million. Lionsgate paid almost $20 million for distribution rights in the U.S. and the U.K., where it opens next Thursday. Maple Releasing will handle the picture in Canada this weekend.

"The Expendables" revolves around a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow a South American dictator. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger make cameos, while Mexican actress Giselle Itie is the lone female co-star.

Stallone was last in theaters in January 2008 with "Rambo," which opened to $18.2 million. His best opening, unadjusted for inflation, was the $33.4 million start for "Spy Kids 3D: Game Over" in 2003.

"Eat Pray Love," Columbia's adaptation of writer Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir about a woman's post-divorce global journey toward self-discovery, is "definitely going to enthrall the ladies," said Rory Bruer, the studio's president of worldwide distribution.   Continued...