LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - What's wrong with this picture?
Even with two of the world's biggest movie stars in Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp aboard, "The Tourist" might struggle to earn $20 million at the North American box office this weekend.
Prerelease tracking surveys indicate soft must-see interest in the costly Sony release. Some industry pundits -- as usual -- blamed the marketing materials, while others said the A-list casting can't mask a tired concept.
Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ("The Lives of Others), "The Tourist" has Depp's character traveling to Venice to get over a recent breakup and getting involved with Jolie's sultry Interpol agent.
"But the problem may be that he doesn't have green eyes and a cap on his head or scissors for hands," an industryite offered. "If you think about it, Depp's most successful roles have always had him playing oddballs."
In a caustic review, The Hollywood Reporter film critic Todd McCarthy opined: "Depp never has registered less effectively in his entire film career."
As for Jolie, her most recent outing came in July with the action thriller Salt, a $118 million domestic grosser.
Despite the proximity to that middling performance, "The Tourist" has received wide media coverage, helped by Jolie's pairing with Depp. Sony secured cover stories in USA Weekend, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue and Vanity Fair, helping to spread awareness of the film among prospective patrons.
But the movie's talent-bloated $100 million production budget surely requires a domestic run of $150 million-$200 million just to reach break even on the picture.
Helpfully, "The Tourist" is expected to over-perform internationally, much in the manner of "Salt," which picked up an outsize $175 million in foreign lucre.
Executives at Sony and producer Graham King's GK Films insisted the action thriller would enjoy a strong run even if it doesn't debut impressively. The holiday season generally produces a sleeper hit or two. Also, adult-targeting movies are often leggy as older moviegoers take longer to support films.
But if "The Tourist" fails to perform, King's company, and not Sony, will take it on the chin. GK covers all production outlays while Sony covers prints and advertising costs and handles most worldwide distribution in exchange for a distribution fee in the low double-digit percentages.
The only other wide opener set for this weekend is "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" from Fox and Walden Media, a family fantasy expected to top the weekend with perhaps $35 million-$45 million. No other adult-oriented thriller has opened wide in recent weeks, and there is little peril of audience overlap for "The Tourist."