Hulk Ready to Smash Shyamalan at B.O.

The Incredible Hulk smashes his way back into theaters this weekend with a reimagining of the popular Marvel Comics character that is more straightforward than Ang Lee’s less-than-successful 2003 version.

The Marvel Studios pic is being released by Paramount on 3,505 screens and anticipation is running high. Starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt and a CG-animated Hulk, and directed by Louis Leterrier from a script by Zak Penn, early reviews are that the pic is a wild ride. Most weekend estimates peg Hulk to come in at around $60 million’roughly on par with what the 2003 version did ‘though a few are wondering if it could be the next Iron Man and climb even higher. The film’s impressive visual effects were provided by various outfits, including Rhythm and Hues, Gentle Giant Studios, Giant Studios, Hydraulx, Image Engine Design, Lidar Services, Lola VFX and Soho VFX. Kurt Williams was visual effects supervisor.

Less easy to see is the fate of The Happening, which Fox is opening on just under 3,000 screens. The film is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and stars Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel in a tale of a mysterious event that threatens to wipe out civilization. Advance word on the R-rated pic has been mostly negative and tracking is low on the pic, which most forecasters expect to rake in anywhere from $20 million to $30 million for a distant second- and possibly third-place finish for the film depending on how far last week’s champ, DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda drops off.