'Home,' 'Red' to rule

Like so many bugs splattered on a windshield, this weekend’s five wide openers and half-dozen limited releases will make themselves noticed but pose no real threat of major impact.

In fact, the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in box office rankings are expected to go once again to last weekend’s top two pics: Universal’s “Red Dragon” and Disney’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” But the looming swarm of openers has made for some amused conversations among distribs and exhibs at the ShowEast trade show in Orlando, Fla., this week.

“It’s almost comical,” observed one distribution exec trying to orchestrate his studio’s release amid the crush of competish. “It’s just crazy.”

For exhibs, the situation reps at least a mixed blessing — if viewed through a pair of rose-colored glasses.

Theater owners long have lobbied for distribs to fill in long gaps between summer and holiday B.O. seasons with big releases in other parts of the year, and this weekend is the latest evidence that studio execs are listening. But so many titles entering the marketplace at once puts pressure on circuits to accommodate the new pics — and important distrib relationships — while maintaining enough auditoriums for successful movies already in release.

Also, the unspooling of so many pics in a fairly nondescript October weekend — other than its dovetailing with Columbus Day on Monday — raises the question of whether any of the pics are being dumped by distribs just to get them out of the can and into the marketplace.

Pics target males

Top trackers among this frame’s new titles include New Line’s “Knockaround Guys” — a low-budget mob actioner starring Vin Diesel — and 20th Century Fox’s “Transporter.” Both target male moviegoers not preoccupied with Hannibal Lecter or Reese Witherspoon.

“Guys” skews older and thus is in more of a head-on collision with R-rated “Dragon,” while PG-13 “Transporter” will have to count on younger studs resisting galpals’ date-night instincts toward femme-magnet “Alabama.” “Transporter” had been slotted for a September bow until Fox bumped the pic to goose pic awareness with a heightened TV campaign.

Also unspooling are the young-skewing haunted-sub suspenser “Below” from Miramax/Dimension; urban drama “Brown Sugar” from Fox Searchlight; and family fantasy “Tuck Everlasting” from the Mouse House.

Among the frame’s notable limited releases are Sony/Revolution’s “Punch Drunk Love,” an Adam Sandler laffer helmed by Paul Thomas Anderson (“Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia”), and Warner Bros.’ three-hanky femme drama “White Oleander,” whose ensemble cast includes Michelle Pfeiffer and Renee Zellweger. “Punch-Drunk” broadens to wide release Oct. 18.

‘Daddy’ postponed

The weekend mayhem could have been even messier if Premiere hadn’t postponed the release of intended wide release “Who’s Your Daddy?” Laffer has been shelved until at least November by serious financial problems at the fledgling distrib.

B.O. watchers say it’s tough to say which of the weekend openers — if any — might enjoy especially strong Sunday grosses given the prospect of a day off from work or school Monday for some potential moviegoers. Columbus Day is a fairly notable holiday in a few markets like Gotham but is all but ignored in some parts of the country.

Meanwhile, “Dragon” grossed an October record $36.5 million in its inaugural frame last weekend but could see a sizable soph-sesh plummet after bowing with a super-wide 3,357 engagements. “Bama,” which managed a relatively modest 40% drop last weekend to $21.3 mil after a saturation release the previous frame, will try to show gamely gams for a long fall run.

DreamWorks’ Jackie Chan starrer “Tuxedo” also enters its third frame in release after a skimpy 33% drop to $10 million in third last weekend. And then, of course, there’s still IFC’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the Eveready Bunny of platformed releases.

Ethnic laffer finished fourth last weekend with a scant 13% fall to $8.2 mil. “Wedding” thus became the top-grossing indie pic of all time last weekend with a domestic cume of $147.7 million through its 25th sesh.

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