'Pain & Gain' to strong-arm rivals at weekend box office

There will likely be less pain than gain for Paramount Pictures at the box office this weekend.

Michael Bay's new action comedy, "Pain & Gain," is expected to debut with a respectable $23 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. That should be enough to beat "Oblivion," the Tom Cruise sci-fi flick entering its second weekend in theaters. 

The only other new film hitting theaters nationwide, the romantic comedy "The Big Wedding," isn't expected to fare that well. The film, featuring a star-studded ensemble cast including Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl and Robert De Niro, will likely start off with a so-so $11 million.

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"Pain & Gain" stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie as bodybuilders who attempt to extort money from a wealthy businessman. Based on a 1999 series of Miami New Times articles about similar events, the movie has not received exceptionally positive reviews. On Thursday morning, the picture had notched a 48% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Paramount spent about $26 million to produce "Pain & Gain" -- an exceptionally low budget for Bay, the filmmaker behind the pricey "Transformers" franchise. Wahlberg and Bay are set to reteam for the fourth installment in the alien robot series, which will be released by Paramount in June 2014.

Both Wahlberg and Johnson have proved to be pretty reliable box-office draws in recent years. Though Johnson's February action flick "Snitch" only collected $42 million, he has helped to rejuvenate flagging franchises like "G.I. Joe," "The Fast and the Furious" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Wahlberg, meanwhile, is coming off a flop in the January crime thriller "Broken City" but had two hits last year with the massive comedy "Ted" and the low-budget action film "Contraband."

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"The Big Wedding," a remake of a 2006 French film, is about a family thrown into chaos when they are forced to reunite at a wedding. The movie, which also features Susan Sarandon, Amanda Seyfried and Robin Williams, has been panned by critics.

The $35-million production was primarily financed by Avi Lerner's Millennium Films, though distributor Lionsgate contributed less than $10 million to the budget. To incentivize moviegoers to see the film this weekend, Lionsgate is offering a promotion: Fans who go online to purchase one $12 ticket for the movie will receive another ticket for free.

In limited release, Roadside Attractions is opening its drama "Mud" in 363 theaters. The coming-of-age film stars Matthew McConaughey as a fugitive who befriends two Arkansas teenagers who help him escape the police. Costarring is Reese Witherspoon, who was arrested last weekend and charged with disorderly conduct after her husband was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence.

ALSO:

'Pain & Gain' a painful reminder for real-life gang victim

Dwayne Johnson has emergency surgery for hernial tears

Mark Wahlberg's supplements line, 'Pain & Gain' promote each other

Follow @AmyKinLA

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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