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Universal will feel impact of flop

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Los Angeles - Battleship, Universal Pictures’ big-budget science-fiction film, is likely to dent the studio's profits after it opened with lower than forecast ticket sales, according to analysts.

The film, which Comcast unit Universal has said cost $209-million to produce, generated $23.4-million in ticket sales at theatres in the US and Canada during its opening weekend, according to figures compiled by Hollywood.com.

It had been projected by tracking services used by Hollywood studios to have ticket sales of between $35-million and $40-million.

The movie, which stars Liam Neeson and the singer Rihanna, finished the weekend second to Walt Disney's superhero blockbuster The Avengers, which led the box office for the third weekend with $55.1-million in ticket sales.

“It is not quite the epic disaster of John Carter, but this will put a dent in Comcast's quarter,” said Matthew Harrigan of Wunderlich Securities, who follows Comcast. He did not quantify how much he expected the film to lose.

John Carter, which sold $30.2-million during its opening weekend in March, saddled Disney with a $200-million loss, the company said. That film cost more than $250-million to produce.

Based on the John Carter performance, Universal will lose $100-million to $200-million, estimates Michael Morris of Davenport & Company, who does not follow Comcast, but follows Disney, News Corporation and Time Warner, which also have studio units.

A Universal spokesperson would not comment. Comcast officials were not immediately available for comment.

The studio is estimated to have spent more than $100-million to market the film, standard for large budget films.

Battleship has sold more than $220-million in overseas tickets, Universal has said. It is forecast to reach $250-million in foreign sales.

Movie studios generally receive about half of the revenues from ticket sales in North America and less in foreign markets.

The film needed to generate more than $50-million in weekend ticket sales to break even, said analyst Tony Wible, a managing director at Janney Montgomery Scott who compiles a data base on film performances. He does not follow Comcast.

Last week, Disney's superhero franchise-builder surprised experts by cutting into the expected weekend ticket sales of Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp, which took in just $29.7-million, according to Box Office Mojo.

During the coming weekend, Battleship, loosely based on the Hasbro board game, will face the third installment of Will Smith's futuristic comedy Men In Black. The last one in the series, in 2002, generated $190.4-million in domestic ticket sales. - Reuters


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