Bryan Singer's retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk may need some magic beans to become a hit.

By Grady Smith
February 22, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST

In 2010, rival studios watched in awe as Disney’s Alice in Wonderland earned more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Before long, a new wave of fairy-tale adaptations got the green light, but of the resulting films, only Snow White and the Huntsman did well, grossing nearly $400 million here and abroad. Meanwhile, Mirror Mirror and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters fizzled. Now, with Jack the Giant Slayer due March 1, there are concerns that the 3-D adventure starring Nicholas Hoult may be facing an up-stalk climb of its own.

The movie was financed for $185 million, according to its production house, New Line. (The company did not make anyone available for further comment.) Directed by Bryan Singer, Jack was originally scheduled for a June 2012 release, but distributor Warner Bros. pushed the opening back nine months to fine-tune the special effects and marketing plan. The extra time seems to have paid off creatively: Reactions from early screenings have been largely positive. Unfortunately, tracking suggests that Jack may open with a soft $25 million. And if it follows the front-loaded trajectory of other March-released fantasy adventures, such as 10,000 BC and Wrath of the Titans, it’s likely to finish with less than $75 million total.

One problem may be that audiences don’t know who the movie is targeting. ”Is this a family movie in the vein of a Chronicles of Narnia?” says Vincent Bruzzese, president of Worldwide Motion Picture Group, an industry consulting firm. ”Or is this an adult-oriented fantasy-action? In order to be successful, it needs to very clearly identify itself.”

Another issue is Disney’s big-budget fantasy Oz the Great and Powerful, which hits theaters just one week after Jack. The Sam Raimi-directed tentpole is tracking substantially higher than Jack, and if it does cannibalize that film’s audience, Warner Bros. may not get the fairy-tale ending it’s hoping for.