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Horror’s high hopes

'Ring Two' aims to top pair of family pix

Horror should heat up the box office this weekend with DreamWorks launching “The Ring Two” at 3,332 playdates as the latest in a quickly lengthening line of screamfests.

Frame also will see a battle for family coin between Disney’s launch of teen drama “Ice Princess” at 2,501 screens and Fox’s soph sesh of last weekend’s winner “Robots,” which will finish its first week at about $45 million.

But much of moviegoers’ attention will probably be focused on “The Ring Two,” with Naomi Watts reprising her role as a journalist dealing with a deadly videotape. The original “Ring,” an adaptation of the Japanese hit “Ringu,” stunned the biz in fall 2002 when it opened with $15 million and then followed with successive $18 million weekends on its way to a $129 million domestic total.

Rival distribs believe “The Ring Two,” which carries a PG-13 rating, may have enough scarepower to match the $39.1 million record for a horror opening set last fall by “The Grudge” on its way to topping $110 million. Other recent successful frightfests include “Constantine,” “Saw,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “White Noise” and “Dawn of the Dead,” which led the box office during the same frame last year with $26.7 million.

Horror isn’t a slam-dunk at the box office, though, as evidenced by the recent lukewarm perf by Dimension’s “Cursed,” but DreamWorks distribution topper Jim Tharp predicts a solid performance for “The Ring Two.”

“The expectations are going to be very high, and I don’t think it’s going to disappoint,” he said.

“Ice Princess,” starring Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack and Kim Cattrall, arrives with a marketing campaign aimed squarely at mothers and daughters — an audience Disney has mined effectively with such fare as both “Princess Diaries” pics, “Freaky Friday” and “The Lizzie McGuire Movie.”

“Princess” also is well positioned to take advantage of families on spring break in the coming weeks, as are “Robots” and Disney and Spyglass’ “The Pacifier”; latter’s grosses are nearing a surprisingly strong $60 million in its first three weeks.

New Line has high hopes for comedy-drama “The Upside of Anger,” expanding to 153 playdates after its solid platform launch last weekend of $211,599 at nine sites. “Upside” nearly outgrossed Newmarket’s opening for “The Passion Recut” at 957 sites, a performance so downbeat that expectations are minimal for this weekend.

Fox Searchlight will open Woody Allen’s “Melinda and Melinda” at one Gotham theater, five months after the laffer began its first commercial run in Spain.

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