Pixar and Disney's Brave is off to an impressive start at the domestic box office, with strong matinee returns suggesting a weekend debut in the $60 million range or better.
At the other end of the spectrum, the R-rated genre epic Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter also is off to a solid start, earning $701,000 in Thursday midnight runs. Friday night business will be key in terms of the film's weekend chances, but box office observers believe Abraham Lincoln could near $20 milllion in its debut.
Brave -- the first Pixar title to feature a female heroine -- will easily win the weekend and is playing in a total of 4,164 theaters, the widest release ever for a Pixar title. The majority of those runs, 2,790, will be in 3D.
The biggest question for Brave is how much sway it will have over boys. The storyline centers on the talented archer Merida, who makes a reckless choice that imperils her kingdom and forces her to set things right. Disney has specifically targeted the male demo by playing up the film's action.
Brave is the summer's second animated event pic after Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount. Madagascar 3, benefiting from a pent-up demand for family product, opened to a sizable $60.3 million two weeks ago and has ruled the domestic box office since.
Pixar's previous film, Cars 2, debuted to $66.1 million on the same weekend a year ago. Among other Pixar entries, WALL-E opened to $63.1 million in summer 2008 and Up to $68.1 million in 2009.
Abraham Lincoln, adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith's book by Grahame-Smith and Simon Kinberg, is an important test for what's called the "mashup" genre (Graham-Smith's book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is being developed into a film by Lionsgate).
Fox won a heated bidding war for the project, which was shopped by Russian director Timur Bekmambetov, executive producer Tim Burton and Grahame-Smith.
The movie is an important test for Bekmambetov, who hasn't made a movie since Wanted in 2008. That film became a box office sensation, grossing $341.5 million worldwide.
In Abraham Lincoln, President Lincoln lives a secret life as a vampire hunter, a cause he's been dedicated to since his mother was killed by the undead. The problem is even bigger now, with vampires intent on taking over the United States.
Abraham Lincoln stars Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie and Mary Elizabeth Winstead and cost close to $70 million to produce. It's tracking best among younger males, followed by older males.