Crowe spars with top troika

Newcomers 'Man,' 'Lords' hoping to shift 'Sith' at B.O.

This article was updated at 8:23 p.m.

After several weeks of unloading summer tentpoles to varying degrees of success, this weekend brings a clutch of pics with more specialized appeal.

Hoping to continue a trend of strong perfs for adult fare, Universal is debuting “Cinderella Man” at 2,812 theaters today. Sony unspools 1970s skateboard pic “Lords of Dogtown,” which is strongest with teens, at 1,865.

On Wednesday, Warner Bros. launched the weekend’s “youngest” new release, the femme-friendly “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” at 2,583 venues and saw first-day results of $2.1 million.

New arrivals may have a tough time displacing the holdovers at the top of the box office chart.

Finishes in the $20 million-$30 million neighborhood are likely for the third week of 20th Century Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” and the soph sessions of DreamWorks’ “Madagascar” and Paramount’s “The Longest Yard.”

“Cinderella Man,” starring Russell Crowe, helmed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer, has the best shot at the box office title.

It’s the latest attempt at counterprogramming a prestige title during the summer’s typically light fare.

Rather than shoot for a monster opening, past summer adult pics aimed to play extended runs. The strategy worked well for U’s “Seabiscuit,” which ultimately cumed $121 million after opening to $21 million in July 2003. That pic followed the course of 2002’s “Road to Perdition,” which opened with $22 million and eventually took in $104 million.

Last year’s “The Terminal,” starring Tom Hanks and helmed by Steven Spielberg, did not fare as well, opening at $19 million and ending up with $78 million.

Warners has had success with its pics aimed at the young femme set. Last year, “A Cinderella Story” opened in July with $13.6 million and ultimately cumed $51.4 million.

But the genre is notoriously fickle. Last summer, neither “New York Minute” nor “Sleepover” clicked with girls. However, with more than $2 million under its belt on its first day, “Pants” is already well ahead of both those underperformers.

On the limited front, Picturehouse — the newly merged Newmarket/Fine Line/HBO Films operation — debuts the doc “Rock School” on 32 screens.

Also bowing are Paramount Classics’ “Apres Vous” on three screens and Tartan’s “Milwaukee, Minnesota” on three. Starting on two screens each are Miramax’s “Deep Blue” and Empire’s “Caterina in the Big City.”

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