LOS ANGELES - With "Paranormal Activity 4" expected to dominate the box office this weekend, Tyler Perry may be haunted by his decision to star in "Alex Cross."
The fourth installment in the popular horror franchise will easily claim No. 1, debuting with around $50 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. That figure includes ticket sales from the film's Thursday night debut on about 3,000 screens.
Paramount Pictures, which is distributing "Paranormal Activity 4," is projecting a softer wide opening of $35 million to $40 million - though that would still be enough to win the weekend race.
The studio spent around $6 million to produce the latest entry, which centers around a young boy whose neighbors take him in when his mother is hospitalized. The film has received substantially more negative reviews than any of its predecessors in the franchise.
Last October, the third "Paranormal" film opened with a robust $52.6 million, suggesting that the audience for the series does not appear to be significantly growing or shrinking. The low-budget horror sensation launched in 2009 after the original "Paranormal Activity" generated buzz on the film festival circuit and was then acquired by Paramount. The first movie was made for only $15,000 and ultimately grossed a massive $193 million worldwide.
The only other new film hitting theaters nationwide this weekend is "Alex Cross," based on novelist James Patterson's best-selling book series about a detective who tracks down the scum of society. The movie is likely to start off with roughly $15 million.
Whereas Paramount is hoping to repeat history with "Paranormal Activity 4," filmmaker-actor Perry is hoping to find success in a new arena with "Alex Cross." The film marks the 43-year-old's first significant leading role outside his own brand of movies and is the only picture the actor has ever starred in that he didn't write or direct himself.
"Alex Cross" will test whether Perry can attract a broad commercial audience. In recent years he has excelled at the box office with African American moviegoers who turn up to see his films, which often feature wholesome family values or his sassy comedic grandmother character Madea.
The film is being distributed in the U.S. by Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment, which co-financed the picture with Bill Block's QED International and Patterson for $23 million. The picture, which also stars Matthew Fox and Ed Burns, is so far generating the most interest among older males.
Patterson's Cross character has appeared on the big screen twice before, both times played by Morgan Freeman, first in "Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came a Spider." The latter film performed better at the box office, collecting $105.1 million worldwide in 2001.