Despite the star power of Johnny Depp, "Transcendence" will likely play fourth fiddle in the box office this Easter weekend.
The race looks to be a repeat of last weekend's sequel showdown between Disney-Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and Fox's "Rio 2," which are each tracking for $25 million-plus.
"Winter Soldier" has grossed almost $510 million worldwide ($175 million domestically), while "Rio 2" has tallied $177.2 million ($53 million domestically) through Thursday.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros.' "Transcendence" is headed for a soft $16 million-plus launch. The sci-fi thriller, which reportedly cost $100 million to produce, may suffer from lackluster word of mouth and poor reviews (pic currently has 19% Rotten Tomatoes meter). "Transcendence" could, however, make up for the loss overseas thanks in part to a day-and-date release in China.
The high-concept film about a scientist whose consciousness is uploaded digitally marks the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, a longtime collaborator of Christopher Nolan's who won on Oscar for shooting "Inception" back in 2011. The technophobia drama also stars Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara and Cillian Murphy.
The movie marks the latest Stateside dud for Depp. Aside from Disney's mega-successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, the chameleonic actor's most recent films have bombed domestically. "The Lone Ranger" earned $89 million Stateside, with a total worldwide gross of $261 million -- only $45 million more than its production budget. His previous two movies, "Dark Shadows" and "The Rum Diary," drew cumes of $80 million and $13 million, respectively.
With its new weekend entry "Heaven Is for Real" (an A CinemaScore), Sony is hoping to capitalize on the recent success of faith-themed pics. The Christian drama is en route for an $18 million weekend -- in what would be a third-place finish ahead of "Transcendence."
"Heaven Is for Real," which cost just $12 million to produce, kicked off the Easter weekend early on Wednesday with an opening-day gross of $3.7 million. The Greg Kinnear starrer took in an additional $3.3 million Thursday from 2,417 locations, raising its two-day cume to $7 million.
An adaptation of Todd Burpo's hit novel of the same name, the movie is an account of Burpo's then-4-year-old son's near-death experience. With its grassroots marketing campaign, Sony is hoping "Heaven Is for Real" can match the success of Burpo's 2010 global bestseller, which not only had a religious core but also mass appeal. Sony enlisted senior production exec DeVon Franklin, an ordained minister, to oversee production on the drama, which is produced by Bishop T.D. Jakes and Joe Roth.
Open Road's comedy spoof "A Haunted House 2" and Disney's wildlife documentary "Bears" also opened on Friday.