The basic thrust of Brooks Barnes7.30 N.Y. Times article about Neil Blomkamp‘s Elysium (Sony, 8.9) is that tracking is looking iffy due to possible audience perceptions of familiarity and repetition (I noted the similarities to Tom Cruise‘s Oblivion six weeks ago) and that (b) Sony can’t afford three tanks in a row following the After Earth and White House Down shortfalls.

I’m sensing that Barnes may be painting a darker portrait than necessary. Elysium‘s opening-weekend tally may not match District 9‘s, but it’ll probably be somewhat close to that. A colleague cautions that tracking reports “have been wrong all summer” and should probably be taken with a grain of salt. “The days of reliable traditional tracking forecasts are long past,” say’s Phil Contrino. “Interest [in a film] can can turn around real fast.”

I’m not allowed to post a review yet but having seen Elysium twice I can say it’s a very close cousin of Blomkamp’s District 9 and is clearly a gripping, superior, non-cookie-cutter film of this dystopian type. Fast, dusty, grimy, pulse-pounding. It’s inventively imagined and obviously reflective of the sociological scheme of things today.

Elysium “is generating strong advance interest from ticket buyers, according to Sony, which is hoping for opening-weekend ticket sales in the $35 million to $40 million range,” Barnes reports. “Competing studios contend that independent surveys that track interest indicate a softer result — perhaps even well below the $37.4 million that District 9 took in over its first three days in theaters.”

As we speak Contrino is forecasting a weekend haul in the vicinity of $33 million. “This is not looking like a bomb or a disappointment by any means,” he says. “And it’s unfair to compare to District 9, which was a surprise breakout” as well as a big critical hit.