3-D ‘Finding Nemo’ should hook No. 1 at theaters this weekend

Dory, lower left, and Marlin, lower right, face an ocean full of perils in their efforts to rescue Nemo in this scene from 'Finding Nemo.'

Photo by Pixar

Dory, lower left, and Marlin, lower right, face an ocean full of perils in their efforts to rescue Nemo in this scene from "Finding Nemo."

— The 3-D re-release of “Finding Nemo” should go swimmingly at the box office this weekend, as the animated film is expected to open at No. 1.

The reformatted version of the kids’ flick probably will open with about $30 million in ticket sales, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The other new film hitting theaters this weekend, “Resident Evil: Retribution,” should also see healthy ticket sales, with a projected start of about $27 million.

Walt Disney Studios decided to pull a handful of its most popular animated titles out of the vault for 3-D re-release a month after “The Lion King 3-D” scored at the box office. The reissue of the jungle book tale grossed a surprisingly strong $94.2 million last September, prompting the studio to announce 3-D re-releases of “Beauty and the Beast,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “The Little Mermaid.”

The 3-D reissue of “Beauty and the Beast” didn’t fare nearly as well at the multiplex as “The Lion King,” grossing $47.6 million. Disney expects “Nemo” will ultimately sell more tickets than “Beast” but fewer than “The Lion King.” The studio said it spent less than $5 million to convert “Nemo” to 3-D, meaning it should be a financial winner for Disney.

When it was first released nine years ago, Pixar Animation’s “Finding Nemo” opened to glowing reviews and won the Oscar for best animated feature. The movie, about a clown fish searching for his kidnapped son Nemo, was a worldwide phenomenon, selling $867 million worth of tickets.

Other studios have seen mixed box-office results re-releasing their most popular titles in 3-D. When 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures distributed “Titanic 3-D” in April, the movie did massive global business, raking in nearly $350 million worldwide. In May, however, Fox’s updated version of “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” grossed a less successful $43.5 million in the U.S. and Canada.

“Resident Evil: Retribution” is the fifth film in the science fiction thriller franchise, which originated in 2002 and stars Milla Jovovich. The movie, whose origins date to a popular video game, cost Sony Pictures about $65 million after tax rebates.

Each movie in the “Resident Evil” series has grossed more than its predecessor in North America, with 2010’s “Afterlife” finishing with $60.1 million domestically. However, the “Resident Evil” films now do most of their business overseas. The 2010 installment, released in 3-D, took in $236.1 million internationally — about 80 percent of its worldwide gross. “Retribution” is already faring well abroad, having collected $1.4 million since Wednesday from five foreign markets including Indonesia and Taiwan. This weekend, the movie will play in 50 countries, with the biggest ticket sales expected to come from South Korea, Australia and Russia.

In limited release, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” will open this weekend in five theaters — three in New York and two in Los Angeles. The Weinstein Co. film, which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as an L. Ron Hubbard-esque cult leader, has generated awards buzz on the film festival circuit in recent months.

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