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B.O. swordfight

'Tomcats,' 'Kids' battle post-Oscar 'Gladiator'

Oscar’s favorites will compete with some new kids on the theatrical block this weekend.

“Gladiator” is among a handful of films hoping to reap some extra box office bounce from Academy Awards success, but new releases, including Sony’s “Tomcats” and Miramax’s “Spy Kids,” are hoping to grab the limelight.

“Tomcats,” an R-rated laffer with a youthful ensemble cast, reps first production from Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios and a maiden helming outing for film scribe Gregory Poirier (“See Spot Run,” “Rosewood”).

Boasting an attractive cast including up-and-coming femme Shannon Elizabeth (“American Pie”) and co-topliner Jerry O’Connell (“Mission to Mars”), “Tomcats” has enjoyed the mother of all marketing campaigns including prominent bus-side billboards. B.O. in the low-teen millions is considered well within reach over three days

Meanwhile, family pic “Spy Kids” is tracking big with good early reviews, despite its curiously ho-hum reception at exhibs’ recent ShoWest convention.

“Our family tracking looks great, and we’re looking forward to the weekend,” Miramax sales veep David Kaminow said.

Though execs declined to say, it’s believed that the $35 million pic could draw upward of $15 million in the three-day frame.

‘Someone’ looking good

Bruce Snyder, distrib prexy at 20th Century Fox, said 189 sneak previews of the studio’s “Someone Like You” romancer were 80%-90% full last weekend. “The picture played very well, so I expect to have a good weekend.”

Pic skews to females between the ages of early 20s to 40s. “I think what you’re looking at is a date-night movie,” Snyder added.

It’s believed that Fox is looking for B.O. somewhere in the low-teen millions for “Someone.”

Sony’s “Tailor of Panama” will see a limited bow, as the Pierce Brosnan-Geoffrey Rush starrer — a John Le Carre adaptation — hits 200 theaters in selected markets.

“It’s not just a conventional spy thriller; it’s got a lot of twists and turns,” Sony marketing and distrib topper Jeff Blake said. “We believe we’ve really got what it takes with this one, so hopefully we can take our time and really get it done right.”

Skewing adult

Blake takes heart in some early positive reviews for the John Boorman-helmed pic, which targets “discriminating adult audiences,” he said.

Fueled by publicity over its best pic and other Oscar wins, DreamWorks will run “Gladiator” through its theatrical paces one more time. Brought back for a small domestic re-release after its Feb. 13 Oscar noms, the pic expands today to 577 engagements from a previous dozen locations.

A bigger re-release campaign would not make sense, however, as the Russell Crowe starrer is already long on homevideo and DVD.

“The exhibitors are saying they want to put this movie in theaters again,” DreamWorks distrib topper Jim Tharp explained of the top 20 markets re-release. “They believe there are still people who want to see it on the bigscreen.”

Newspaper ads will run to support the limited re-release, but a new broadcasting campaign is unlikely, Tharp said.

The Roman-themed actioner has grossed roughly $450 million worldwide — $187 million in domestic box office and $263 million in foreign. North American campaign launched May 5, 2000, with opening weekend B.O. of $34.8 million from 2,938 engagements.

‘Tiger’ spreads out

Sony Classics’ “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which copped Oscars including a best foreign-language film statuette, adds 25 or so locations in approaching some 2,300 engagements.

USA Films’ “Traffic” — helped by Academy wins including an Oscar for helmer Steven Soderbergh — will maintain most of its previous engagements and play in 1,673 locations this weekend.

But Miramax’s “Chocolat,” which went home without a statuette Sunday, will shed about 380 theaters this weekend, dropping to 1,403 engagements.

Looking ahead, Miramax has postponed a previously planned April 6 bow for its “Texas Rangers” Western romp until the first quarter of 2002. And New Line has bumped its long-delayed Warren Beatty starrer “Town and Country” one week to April 27.

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