This article was updated at 6:54 p.m.
Will the flood of attention given to “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which Lions Gate and IFC Films will bow in 868 venues, translate into boffo B.O.?
While Michael Moore’s pic has dominated headlines this week, it’s not the top dog going into the weekend box office race.
Continuing the summer’s trend of midweek bows, Sony/Revolution’s “White Chicks” opened on Wednesday, taking in $4.2 million from 2,412 locations.
Opening day results put pic, which stars Marlon and Shawn Wayans as undercover white girls, on a pace to dethrone Fox’s “DodgeBall” at the top of the box office chart this weekend.
Revolution partner Tom Sherak sees a tight race between the two laffers. “We should have a pretty good weekend,” he said. “It’s going to be close.”
Last laffer with such a heavy Wayans presence was 2001’s “Scary Movie 2,” which debuted with $20.5 million.
Laffers that draw on young males typically drop in the range of 50% on their second week. That kind of perf would put “DodgeBall” at around $15 million, just slightly lower than industry expectations for the three-day take of “White Chicks.”
But “DodgeBall” may hold up better than normal. Midweeks have been fairly strong, with the pic earning $5.6 million on Monday and $5.2 million Tuesday. When “White Chicks” opened on Wednesday, it still grossed $4 million.
Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer said exit polls found the “White Chicks” aud to be 76% under 25 and 55% male. Though the Wayans have a rep for a strong African-American fan base, surveys found that the aud was just 22% African-American.
“It’s playing like a broad teen comedy,” Bruer said. “We feel really good about it.”
Bruer said the decision to bow the pic midweek was made to build word of mouth.
“I think you have to feel good about your movie. It can work almost in the same way as a sneak,” Bruer said. He added that the pic’s core aud of teens “are home during the summer.”
Also bowing today are Universal’s little tiger movie “Two Brothers” in 2,170 theaters and New Line romancer “The Notebook” at 2,303.
Returns for “9/11” have been strong so far, with the pic earning $83,922 on Wednesday from its two exclusive Gotham engagements. Key question for the weekend is how strong demand for the pic is outside of Democratic strongholds.
“I think the picture is going to play great across the country,” said Lions Gate prexy Tom Ortenberg. “We’ll be keeping our eye on our screen average.”
Aim is to expand the “Fahrenheit” runs in coming weeks. This weekend’s perf — especially that screen average — will play a large part in determining how much wider it plays.
Though pic is already receiving the widest ever release for a documentary, rival distrib execs say the relatively low theater count could limit this weekend’s take to the $10 million range.
“We’ll be adding runs next week and on July 9, but we haven’t decided how many runs on each date,” said Ortenberg.
“Two Brothers,” another animal drama from Jean-Jacques Annaud, will bow into an already crowded family fare arena. U distrib prexy Nikki Rocco acknowledged competish but said, “Summertime is the best time to release a film like this because you have more families readily available.”
If New Line’s sneaks of “The Notebook” are any indication, pic will play to mainly women. New Line marketing prexy Russell Schwartz said that at over 1,000 sneaks two weeks ago, 68% of the aud was female and 45% were under 25.
New Line distrib chief David Tuckerman said, “The idea of going with this picture in the summer is to make it hang on for a while.”
Long legs are also key for DreamWorks’ “The Terminal.” Steven Spielberg-helmed Tom Hanks starrer opened with a softer-than-expected $19.1 million, but how much the pic holds in its sophomore session will be even more critical in determining whether or not it turns into a hit.
Two years ago, “The Road to Perdition” opened with a modest $22.1 million but managed to cume $104 million because it only dropped 30% in its second week to $15.4 million.
DreamWorks distrib prexy Jim Tharp hopes to match that perf with “Terminal.” “We would hope that we don’t drop more than the mid-30s,” he said.
Pic is adding 103 runs this week, bringing theater count to 2,914. Increase partly reflects prints bound for Quebec that were not dubbed into French in time for opening weekend.
In limited releases, IFC will bow “The Intended” on four screens in Gotham and L.A. and Palm opens “Time of the Wolf” on three screens in Boston and Gotham.