LOS ANGELES, April 10 (Reuters) - Miley Cyrus and her fabulous alter ago, Hannah Montana, likely will be no match for hot-rod racers and cartoon aliens at movie theaters across North America this Easter holiday weekend.
Walt Disney Pictures' "Hannah Montana: The Movie," the first nonconcert feature starring the 16-year-old starlet, is expected to open at No. 3 across the United States and Canada, behind reigning champ "Fast & Furious" and former No. 1 "Monsters vs. Aliens," according to studio projections.
Box office watchers think another new release, the Seth Rogen comedy "Observe and Report," will take the No. 4 spot.
Disney hopes "Hannah Montana" will perform in the same range as 2003's "The Lizzie McGuire Movie," another big-screen vehicle for a Disney Channel star, in that case Hilary Duff. "Lizzie" opened to $17.3 million in 2003, and ended its domestic run with $42.7 million.
"We would love to be in the high teens," said Chuck Viane, president of domestic theatrical distribution at the Walt Disney Co (DIS.N)-owned studio.
Business will get a boost from the Easter holiday, with three-quarters of children out of school on Friday and half of them also off on Monday, Viane said.
As in her TV series, Cyrus plays a regular schoolgirl by day and a pop star by night. But her father (real-life dad Billy Ray Cyrus) decides she needs to get back to her small-town roots, so takes her on a surprise trip to her old Tennessee home where love and other complications ensue.
TEENS HIT HURDLES
"Hannah Montana" reaches theaters six weeks after the disappointing launch of a concert movie by Disney stablemates the Jonas Brothers. Last week, the "Hannah Montana" movie soundtrack ended Cyrus' impressive hat trick of chart-toppers, opening at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with sales that were a fraction of those for her previous releases.
But Viane brushed off any suggestions that the latest teen idol might be losing some steam.
"I don't see this as being anything other than a terrific little movie by Miley," he said. "Until it opens you don't know, but I think you're going to see extremely good scores on this picture. It plays great to her fan base. It plays great to parents."
He pointed out that "Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience," with total sales of about $19 million, is still the No. 2 concert movie of all time, behind "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," which finished with $65 million early last year.
"Fast & Furious," meanwhile, should earn in the low $30 million range for Friday-to-Sunday period, observers said. The fourth film in Universal Pictures' fast-car franchise scored the biggest opening of the year last weekend with a $71 million haul. Universal is a unit of General Electric Co (GE.N).
Viacom Inc's VIAb.N Paramount declined to forecast the performance of the DreamWorks Animation SKG (DWA.O)-produced "Monsters vs. Aliens," which made about $33 million during its second round in theaters last weekend. Another drop of 45 percent should place it in the $18 million range.
"Observe and Report," starring Rogen as a security guard at a shopping mall, hopes to ring up an opening in the $14 million to $15 million range, said Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc (TWX.N).
Rogen did quite a bit better with such movies as last year's "Pineapple Express" ($23 million) and 2007's "Superbad" ($33 million), although both were summer releases. Earlier this year, TV comedian Kevin James' similarly themed "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" opened to $32 million. (Reporting and writing by Dean Goodman; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Sandra Maler)