Fish tale poised to regain top spot

Underwater toon “Finding Nemo” should resurface atop the box office pond in its third frame this weekend, with a soph-sesh stall likely to park street-rod sequel “2 Fast 2 Furious” in the runner-up spot and three new pics tracking toward no higher than third place.

Sony/Revolution’s buddy-cop actioner “Hollywood Homicide” unspools today in 2,840 theaters, Paramount’s ankle-biters toon “Rugrats Go Wild” chomps into 3,041 playdates, and New Line’s sequel laffer “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” hits 2,609 locations.

“Nemo,” the fifth in a string of successful collaborations between Disney and toon studio Pixar, appears to be treading water nicely, with just the sort of market hold expected of it. Pic is the first Disney/Pixar movie to bow in summer after a series of November slottings, and Mouse was hopeful “Nemo” would stay in the B.O. swim longer as a result. So far, it appears moviegoers are taking the bait.

Last weekend, the family laffer marked a modest 34% drop from its opening grosses, despite coming off the best opening sesh in animation history.

Most observers expect Universal’s “2 Fast” to sputter a bit after coming off the B.O. starting line at No. 1 last weekend, with “Nemo” well-positioned to pull off the unusual feat of retaking the top spot in its third frame.

Another drop of 35% or so would still produce an enviable $30 million for “Nemo.” “2 Fast” grossed $50.5 million its opening weekend, but big-bow actioners consistently fall 50% or more, so pic will likely gross no more than $25 million this weekend.

“Homicide” and “Rugrats” are believed to have stronger shots at a bronze-medal finish than “Dumberer.” “Homicide” is tracking best of the three, with the high-teen millions looking reachable.

But the Harrison Ford-Josh Hartnett starrer has drawn downbeat early reviews, potentially discouraging some biz. And kidpics tend to be tough to track, so “Rugrats” could surprise with a better-than-expected bow.

“I think we’re in a good place,” Revolution Studios partner Tom Sherak said of “Homicide.” “We don’t look at what place it will be in; we just want it to open well.”

Sony reported drawing 70% capacity auds for 766 “Homicide” sneaks last Saturday, with baby boomers most prominent among patrons.

Par/Nickelodeon’s toon –conventionally animated in contrast to the computer-animated Disney/Pixar pic — would have to outpace tracking enormously for “Rugrats” to roil the B.O. waters enough to affect “Nemo.”

“The game plan has been for us to come in after people have already sampled (‘Nemo’),” Par distrib boss Wayne Lewellen said.

It was never envisioned that “Rugrats” could outperform “Nemo,” even in latter’s third week, Lewellen added.

Industrywide, the weekend faces a tough comparison with the same frame a year ago. Last year, Warner Bros.’ live-action/animated laffer “Scooby-Doo” opened with an impressive $54.2 million, while Universal spy thriller “The Bourne Identity” contributed $27.1 million to a $164.9 million industry haul overall.

Current year does have some market momentum going for it. Industrywide B.O. has outpaced the same frame a year ago for three straight weekends, producing an early summer surge after a sleepy first half of the year.

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