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‘R.I.P.D’ could hit the box office DOA

LOS ANGELES – In “R.I.P.D.,” Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges portray deceased lawmen who keep the peace from beyond the grave. The odd-couple partners protect the living from malevolent spirits who refuse to go quietly into the afterlife.

But as the $130-million sci-fi action-comedy reaches theaters today, “R.I.P.D.’s” vital signs are showing about as much of a pulse as the lifeless “Deados” that Bridges and Reynolds battle.

Entering a crowded multiplex this weekend – where the film will face off against the ensemble action caper “Red 2,” the animated kid flick “Turbo” and the modestly budgeted horror movie “The Conjuring” – audience-tracking surveys show that “R.I.P.D.” could gross as little as $17 million in its opening weekend, likely the worst among the four new films in release.

That outcome would represent a spectacular failure to launch, even in a summer season full of big-budget misfires such as “The Lone Ranger,” “White House Down,” “Pacific Rim” and “After Earth,” all of which grossed more than $20 million in their opening weekends.

The consumer polling firm Piedmont Media Research said that “R.I.P.D.” is faring about as poorly in its online surveys as some of the costliest flops in recent memory, including “Battleship,” “Jack the Giant Slayer” and “John Carter.”

“ ‘R.I.P.D.’ is scoring the lowest out of any summer movie we’ve seen,” said the firm’s president, Joshua Lynn. “It’s easily shaping up to be the big summer bomb.”

Unlike some of the other big duds from the schools-out season, “R.I.P.D.” has flown mostly under the incoming bomb radar, a consequence largely of coming out in the shadow of “The Lone Ranger.” But its likely underachievement dramatizes how the summer has been sharply divided between the haves and the have-nots: Rarely has there been so wide a gulf between movies that worked and those that didn’t.

Chatter about the film on social media has been largely derisive, with numerous Twitter posters pointing out “R.I.P.D.’s” perceived similarities to another supernatural buddy-cop franchise, “Men in Black,” the Bill Murray comedy “Ghostbusters” and Guillermo del Toro’s “Hellboy” movies.

Universal, assuming that negative reviews will do little to enhance the film’s box office prospects, declined to show “R.I.P.D.” to journalists and critics until Thursday night, just hours before its theatrical release. None of the filmmakers were available to be interviewed for this article.

Adapted from the Dark Horse Entertainment comic “Rest in Peace Department,” “R.I.P.D.” started filming in late 2011, with a planned release date of June 28, 2013. But when Sony scheduled the release of “White House Down” on the same date, Universal moved “R.I.P.D.” to July 19, which also gave the filmmakers more time to convert the film into 3-D.

Universal remains hopeful that young men will embrace “R.I.P.D.” and that the film could generate opening weekend receipts above $20 million.

But the film has only a week to establish itself because the highly anticipated “Wolverine” opens July 26.