Blockbuster to increase theaters as it nears $200 mil plateau

Disney’s getting ready to fight the good fight over “Pearl Harbor” once more.

In a move likely to steam the summer behemoth north of $200 million domestically, the Mouse House will expand pic from last weekend’s 116 theaters to “well above 500″ on Friday. That’s modest in comparison to the 3,000-plus engagements WWII epic enjoyed for several weeks following its bow over the Memorial Day holiday frame, but it still will help distrib maximize late-season grosses over the long Labor Day weekend.

Ditto prospects for Disney’s family tooner “Atlantis,” which expands to a similar second round of wide release after playing in only 125 locations last weekend. Through the latest frame, “Pearl Harbor” has grossed $195.5 million, “Atlantis” $81.4 million.

The moves reflect the Mouse’s recognition that the looming holiday frame is relatively absent of opening competish. Only United Artists’ modestly budgeted “Jeepers Creepers” suspenser and Lions Gate’s long delayed “O” youth drama bow wide this sesh.

“There’s so little in the market this particular weekend, it became really easy to get dates,” distrib topper Chuck Viane said. “Historically, we’ve come back on Labor Day weekend (because) the market always seems open to bring back some favorites from the season.”

Mouse pulled a similar re-expansion maneuver for its “Armageddon” blockbuster in 1998.

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