"A Good Day to Die Hard," the fifth installment in the Bruce Willis action franchise, is expected to gross a robust $55 million by Monday evening, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. 20th Century Fox, which released the film in theaters late Wednesday evening, is anticipating a softer opening of about $40 million.
Either way, the weekend's other three nationwide debuts won't stand a chance at securing the No. 1 position. Romance author Nicholas Sparks' eighth film adaptation, "Safe Haven," will probably collect about $25 million during its first five days in theaters -- a good start for a film that cost less than one-third as much to make as the fifth “Die Hard.”
Another film aimed at young women, "Beautiful Creatures," could prove to be a rival for "Safe Haven," as the supernatural romance may take in about $22 million over the long weekend. The animated 3-D film "Escape From Planet Earth," the only new movie debuting on Friday instead of Thursday, is set to gross about $19 million during its first four days of release.
"A Good Day to Die Hard," financed by Fox for about $92 million, follows Willis' John McClane character as he teams up with his long-estranged CIA agent son (Jai Courtney) in Moscow. The picture is set to have the best opening of any "Die Hard" movie since the series launched in 1988.
The highest-grossing film in the franchise, "Live Free or Die Hard," started off with $33.4 million in June 2007 and went on to collect $134.5 million domestically. That movie also sold about 65% of its total global gross -- $383.5 million -- overseas. The latest "Die Hard" has already debuted in seven foreign markets, including South Korea and Hong Kong, and collected a total of $10.4 million.
"Safe Haven" has received the worst reviews of any of the weekend's debuts: On Thursday afternoon, the picture had notched a 10% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, just slightly lower than the 13% that "Die Hard" received. The Sparks movie stars "Dancing With the Stars" veteran Julianne Hough as a victim of an abusive relationship who starts her life over in North Carolina, where she falls for a widower played by Josh Duhamel. Directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lasse Hallstrom, the movie was financed by Relativity Media for $28 million.
Movies based on Sparks' best-selling novels have proven to be reliable box office performers in recent years. With modest budgets of no more than $30 million, the romance flicks have consistently attracted females and performed especially well over the Valentine's Day holiday. The biggest Sparks adaptation to date has been "Dear John," starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, which grossed $80 million after opening in February 2010.
"Beautiful Creatures," meanwhile, is hoping to capitalize on the younger female demographic as well. The movie, financed by Alcon Entertainment for about $50 million, is based on a four-book young adult series that has sold 1.3 million books.
The movie, which features a handful of unknown young actors, follows a teenage girl whose supernatural powers threaten her budding romance with a South Carolina native. The movie has a critically acclaimed supporting cast including Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis and Emma Thompson.
"Escape from Planet Earth" has been in development since 2007 at The Weinstein Co., which spent about $40 million to produce the film. The movie, which includes the voices of Jessica Alba, William Shatner and Sarah Jessica Parker, follows a blue alien hero and his brother as they journey to a mysterious and dangerous planet -- Earth.
The picture is also the subject of an ongoing lawsuit, as its writer-director Tony Leech and film producer Brian Inerfeld sued The Weinstein Co. claiming that the independent studio's founders, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, "sabotaged what should have been a highly profitable movie." The lawsuit, filed in 2011, alleged that the brothers demanded 17 rewrites of the film's script and managed its budget poorly.