Relativity Media's Navy SEALs action pic Act of Valor--one of the most unusual movie projects in Hollywood's history--is off to a strong start at the domestic box office, where it could earn $9 million to $10 million on Friday alone.
At that level, Act of Valor could earn north of $25 million for the weekend, but box office observers caution that predictions are tricky because of the film's unusual nature. Relativity was counting on the movie opening in the $15 million to $17 million range, although tracking suggested it would probably hit $20 million.
Act of Valor features real-life U.S. Navy SEALs playing fictionalized characters on a mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent. Act of Valor, rated R, began its life as a Navy recruitment video but morphed into a feature.
Relativity Media acquired worldwide rights to Act of Valor for $13 million from directors Scott Waugh and Mike "Mouse" McCoy, whose company Bandito Brothers produced the film for roughly $12 million. The deal also included a $30 million marketing commitment.
"If we break $20 million, we'll fall off our chairs. Anything beyond $15 million to $17 million is gravy," a Relativity insider said.
Friday afternoon returns show Act of Valor doing especially well in the Southeast, Southwest and West, regions rife with military bases.
Males are most interested in seeing the movie, a demo that Relativity has aggressively gone after. The company hasn't excluded women, however, and has held a total of 415 screenings across the country, particularly in locations where there is a strong military presence. Another factor in the film's favor is its ethnically diverse cast.
Relativity also partnered with two military charities and built its online campaign around thanking SEALs for their service. The movie was screened at the White House in January, prompting President Obama to proclaim: "These are my guys," referring to the SEALs, who have been in the national spotlight since the death of Osama bin Laden.
Act of Valor is one of four new movies opening this weekend.
Tyler Perry's romantic drama Good Deeds, from Lionsgate, could gross $6 milion on Friday for a opening in the $15 million to $16 million range.
The news isn't so bright for Amanda Seyfried thriller Gone, from Summit Entertainment, and R-rated Paul Rudd-Jennifer Aniston comedy Wanderlust, from Universal.
Wanderlust, costing north of $30 million, reteams Role Models director David Wain with Rudd, who is a writer and producer on the new comedy, about an overstressed Manhattan couple who find a new way of life at a pastoral shared community. Relativity Media is a partner on the movie, which may only open in the $7 million to $8 million range.
Summit is releasing Gone for Lakeshore Entertainment and Sidney Kimmel, and has a net risk of $2 million on the pic. The marketing campaign for the thriller has targeted young girls. Early returns show the film grossing in the $4 million to $6 million range.