Box Office Preview: Tower Heist Looks to Steal Top Spot at Weekend Box Office

Universal’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) comedy Tower Heist is set to win the weekend race, beating out the season’s first holiday film, stoner comedy A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

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Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and Matthew Broderick star in Tower Heist, which boasts a supporting cast that includes Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Tea Leoni, Michael Pena, and Gabourey Sidibe. The film follows a group of unlikely crooks who set out to rob the man who swindled them out of their pensions.

Made for $85 million, Universal is hoping the film will make $30 million in its first weekend. Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Kim Roth produced the film with Murphy, while Relativity Media helped finance. The film opens today in 21 markets overseas, including the U.K., German, Spain, Hong Kong, and India.

Though Tower Heist has been tracking well with males of all ages after a flurry of publicity by Stiller and Murphy, it could lose some younger viewers to Warner Bros. (NYSE:TWX) and New Line’s A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. Conservative estimates having the R-rated stoner comedy opening in the range of $18 million, but it could hit $20 million, thanks in part to the surcharge on 3D ticket sales. The last Harold and Kumar film — Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay — opened to $14.9 million in April 2008.

The film follows Harold and Kumar, played by John Cho and Kal Penn, as they search for the perfect Christmas tree after Kumar destroys the original. Also starring Neil Patrick Harris, the film is packed with 3D gimmicks, yet only cost about $20 million to produce.

Still, DreamWorks (NASDAQ:DWA) and Paramount’s (NYSE:VIA) Puss in Boots has a good shot at stealing the No. 2 spot from Harold & Kumar this weekend. The film opened to $34.1 million last weekend despite losing business due to a freak snowstorm on the East Coast. Puss in Boots had grossed just over $40 million at the domestic box office as of Wednesday, and nearly $20 million overseas after enjoying a record-breaking debut in Russia last weekend.

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However, the big story internationally is Steve Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: Secrets of the Unicorn, which debuted to $56 million last weekend as it rolled out in key territories, including France and Belgium, the home of the beloved comic book character. The film, being distributed by Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Paramount, won’t be released in North America until Christmas.