More B.O. kick for ‘Beckham’

'Pirates' princess Knightley gives kick to pic

Keying on the rising popularity of co-star Keira Knightley, Fox Searchlight this weekend will re-expand femme-soccer drama “Bend It Like Beckham,” reaching wide release for the first time.

New TV ads refer to ” ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’s’ Keira Knightley,” in hopes of enticing some of the millions who have seen that hit actioner to the long-playing soccer pic.

“Beckham,” which co-stars Parminder Nagra, reached the box office top 10 in May with just 555 playdates, including a core number of arthouse engagements. Through Sunday, the modestly budgeted British- and Indian-themed pic had rung up $26.3 million domestically.

Nagra and Knightley were relative unknowns prior to the crossover commercial hit. But “Beckham” — the title refers to famous English footballer David Beckham’s ability to “bend” a kicked ball into a curved flight — proved a breakout part for Knightley, who plays Nagra’s friend and rival in the pic.

In addition to “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” a big summer hit for Disney, Knightley has a big part in “Love, Actually,” a romantic comedy from Working Title set for release by Universal in November.

Fox Searchlight distribution topper Steve Gilula said it just seemed like a good idea to draft off of Knightley’s professional heat — as well as the sustained appeal of “Beckham.”

“Our screen count kept going down, but our screen averages have held real well,” Gilula said. “We were hearing that the awareness of the film kept rising, but the movie wasn’t playing anywhere.”

Gilula thus endeavored to snare as many screens as the competitive summer marketplace would allow. “It wasn’t easy, because it is a very crowded marketplace, but we’re seeing this weekend that family-friendly movies are very well embraced.”

That could help “Beckham,” which is rated PG-13 and features a plotline involving dynamic tensions among the two soccer players’ families.

‘Mind’ moves

Meanwhile, Miramax has revealed it’s going the other direction with “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” planning to unspool the quirky laffer in only a limited number of engagements in a re-release now skedded for Aug. 15.

In fact, distrib now plans to re-release the pic only in Gotham and L.A. at first, expanding it further only if B.O. there signals market interest. Miramax had originally said it would re-release the George Clooney-helmed pic in 1,000-plus theaters, blaming its unsuccessful original run on a crowded marketplace last January.

Miramax declined comment on its change of course on “Confessions,” but a spokesman said distrib won’t be re-releasing its successful “Chicago” musical. Miramax had been mulling such a move for the Oscar best pic, which hits homevid in the fall.

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