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‘Act of Valor’ to gun down box-office rivals

Amy Kaufman
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — Heading into this weekend’s box-office battle, “Act of Valor” has the competition in its cross hairs.

The action film featuring about a dozen active-duty Navy SEALs is poised to pick off its rivals at the multiplex, claiming the No. 1 position with roughly $23 million in ticket sales, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The film’s distributor, Relativity Media, is projecting a softer opening of no more than $17 million.

Tyler Perry’s latest film, the romantic drama “Good Deeds,” is likely to be the runner-up with about $17 million. The two other movies premiering this weekend, the Jennifer Aniston rom-com “Wanderlust” and the Amanda Seyfried thriller “Gone,” are each expected to open with a modest sum of less than $10 million.

“Act of Valor,” about a SEAL team embarking on dangerous missions to protect American interests, does not feature any big-name actors. The film grew out of nonfiction footage of SEALs shot by directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh — who work under the banner Bandito Bros. — but ultimately evolved into a full-length feature film that includes that original footage.

The movie, which has so far received largely poor reviews, was acquired by Relativity Media for $13.5 million from Bandito Bros. Ryan Kavanaugh’s studio has additionally spent tens of millions of dollars to market the film, purchasing four pricey Super Bowl Sunday advertising spots.

Perry’s “Good Deeds,” meanwhile, could have one of the smallest openings of any of the prolific filmmaker’s movies. Although the pictures in his comedic “Madea” series typically have robust premieres, his dramas have done less business. Perry’s 2008 film “The Family That Preys” opened to $17.4 million and ultimately grossed $37.1 million. That compares with the $41-million start for 2009’s “Madea Goes to Jail,” which wound up with a domestic total of $90.5 million.

Perry’s new film may be hurt this weekend by the ongoing popularity of the action thriller “Safe House,” starring Denzel Washington, which is attracting a large black audience.

Neither “Good Deeds” nor “Gone” were screened in advance for critics, indicating that the studios behind each film may be anxious about how they will be reviewed.

“Gone,” Summit Entertainment and Lakeshore Entertainment’s psychological thriller about a young woman who is convinced that her sister has been abducted, could be another box-office miss for star Seyfried.

After appearing in the 2008 hit “Mamma Mia!” the 25-year-old actress proved she could open a movie in the 2009 success “Dear John,” opposite Channing Tatum. But her more recent efforts have failed to resonate with American audiences, as both the modern take on “Red Riding Hood” and the sci-fi drama “In Time” only grossed about $37 million each domestically.

Aniston’s latest film, on the other hand, has received the best reviews of any movie the actress has appeared in since 2002’s “The Good Girl.” On Thursday morning “Wanderlust” had a 75 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie, which also stars Paul Rudd and was produced by Judd Apatow, is about an uptight Manhattan couple who decide to move to a commune. The film was produced by Universal Pictures and Relativity for roughly $35 million.

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