'Speed Racer' Just Fine With Second Place, Thank You Very Much

With the buzz of The Dark Knight clearly audible a month-and-a-half behind it, this week's Speed Racer isn't a make-or-break summer tentpole for the gang at Warner Bros. That said, it's not really in the market for embarrassment, either, and the long-circulating word-on-the-street got a bit of trade-paper legitimization today in The Hollywood Reporter. To wit: The Wachowski Brothers' first non-Matrix film in 12 years is currently tracking in second place for the weekend behind defending box-office champ Iron Man:

At present, Speed Racer appears on track to gross $25 million-$35 million during the coming frame, though a late-breaking surge in must-see sentiment could produce a bigger bow. The film targets family moviegoers, a group notoriously tough to track before openings.
Boxoffice derbies aside, Warners execs suggest there's no need for Speed Racer to open huge.

Most of its splashy effects were done with relatively affordable green-screen technology. So the $100 million production will pencil into profitability roughly when its domestic gross hits a similar nine-digit sum, and even a $25 million bow could put it on track to deliver that.

When even the studio hedges, it know what it has — a hyperactive, overlong, purely confectionery treat that disorients as much as it disarms and won't pull near the word-of-mouth that the incumbent possesses. And we even kinda liked it. Warners faces a troubling marketing paradox as well: The viral approach that has so successfully (if slovenly) embedded The Dark Knight among multiplexers is powerless in the service of the kid-friendlier Speed Racer, which relies on conventional methods to boost awareness among youngsters and the parents who'll haul them to the theater. Do most of these kids even know what Speed Racer is? And are the folks ready for the acid trip live-action version of the cartoon they may have seen once? Or do they already have tickets for another viewing of Iron Man?