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Jeremy Renner HANSEL & GRETEL WITCH HUNTERS: Glamorous Violence Tops Box Office

Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters Jeremy RennerHansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters box office: No. 1 on North American chart?

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D, starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as tightly clad, glamorously sexy machine-gun-toting witch hunters, is expected to open at the North American box office with a passable $7m-$8 million at 3,372 theaters on Friday, including $500,000 earned at Thursday late evening / midnight screenings. If those early, rough Friday estimates are on target, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters should end up in the high teens by Sunday evening. (Image: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Jeremy Renner glamorously aims to kill.)

Although Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters could not be considered a downright bomb, in case those early box office estimates are indeed accurate they would hardly indicate a great opening for a movie that reportedly cost $50m, not including marketing and distribution expenses. And that has the advantage of 3D ticket surcharges at about 2,900 venues. At Box Office Mojo, for instance, Ray Subers had predicted something closer to $22 million – hardly a blockbuster-type gross, but about 10-20 percent above current estimates as found at Deadline.com. Distributor Paramount is also expecting an opening in the high teens to low 20s.

The silver lining: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters opened with an outstanding $8.6 million in Russia. If other international markets follow suit, once again a North American box office disappointment will be saved by 3D/action-loving overseas moviegoers.

Now, domestic Friday (and as a result, weekend) box office figures could go up or down, depending on late-evening business, a key factor for R-rated movies such as Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Official Friday estimates will be released on Saturday morning.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton topline Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters cast

Directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola (of the über-violent Dead Snow), and co-written by Wirkola and Dante Harper, besides the presence of Gemma Arterton and The Avengers / The Bourne Legacy star and two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town), the Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters cast also features Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Derek Mears, Robin Atkin Downes, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Joanna Kulig, and Thomas Mann.

Of note: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters has arrived in theaters nearly a year after its originally planned release date, March 2012. Also, this violent reimagining of the fairy tale has a 0 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. (Admittedly, only nine have been polled so far.)

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Jeremy Renner photo: Paramount Pictures.

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