Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Juan Naharro Gim
Grady Smith
August 10, 2011 AT 05:44 PM EDT

Yesterday, Paramount announced that World War Z, their thriller starring Brad Pitt, would be released on Dec. 21, 2012, the same date as Disney’s upcoming Johnny Depp vehicle, Lone Ranger. The two A-listers have never debuted movies on the same weekend before, but even this far in advance, it’s not hard to see that this match-up will be a holiday box office showdown.

In one corner, we have World War Z, an adaptation of Max Brooks’ bestselling book, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Back in December 2007, Warner Brothers released a zombie blockbuster starring Will Smith, I Am Legend, and it earned a tremendous $256.4 million. I’m guessing Paramount is hoping that a similarly huge crowd will turn out to see Pitt (who has never been quite the box office star that Smith is) fight off the brain-eaters. Pitt’s last big-budget studio film, Inglourious Basterds, earned a nice $120.5 million, and other successful releases like Oceans Eleven ($183.4 million), Mr. and Mrs. Smith ($186.3 million), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($127.5 million), prove that he can attract big audiences when paired with broadly appealing stories.

In the other corner, we have Lone Ranger, a film adaptation of an old TV and radio show that followed a Texan hero (played by Armie Hammer) and his Native American comrade, Tonto (Depp). Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the super-duo who teamed up with Johnny Depp in the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Lone Ranger will likely be a visual spectacle with huge appeal for popcorn munchers. Still, westerns can be a tough sell at the box office. True Grit hit big ($171.1 million), but Cowboys and Aliens ($69.1 million) has underperformed so far. Depp appeared in a relatively successful animated western, Rango ($123.3 million) this year, but only time will tell if the star can pull in audiences as a live-action frontier fellow.

In all reality, these late December releases mean that studios are aiming for big holiday box office numbers, as kids will be out of school and many adults off of work, and there’s probably room for both films to succeed financially, but I’m curious: Which do you think will do better business?

Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie

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