'Crashers,' 'Chocolate' will fend off freshman

Expectations are modest for the weekend’s three new wide releases — Sony’s “Stealth,” Disney’s “Sky High” and Warner Bros.’ “Must Love Dogs.”

That means all the drama at the box office this weekend will rest on whether New Line’s “Wedding Crashers” can pull of the rare feat of claiming the B.O. crown in its third weekend of release.

Best opening among the fresh titles is expected to fall in the midteens –also the territory in which the champ of the last two weeks, Warners’ “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” should finish.

New Line hopes that if “Crashers” can hold on to the majority of business, as it did in its second weekend, falling just 25% to $25.7 million, it will finish around $19 million, which may be good enough to win the weekend.

Through Wednesday, the Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson R-rated laffer has grossed $92.1 million.

“We think we’re going to hold pretty well,” said New Line distrib prexy David Tuckerman.

After “Charlie” won last weekend with $28.3 million, another 50% drop would put Tim Burton’s pic around $14 million. So far, it’s brought in $127.8 million.

With the Roald Dahl adaptation playing well midweek, Warners distrib topper Dan Fellman said he isn’t too worried about the box office ranking.

“We’re not looking at the three-day contest. As long as I stay on target, which is looking like $200 million (cume), I’ll be very pleased.”

Sony also thinks it has a shot to reach the top spot with “Stealth.”

“Any kind of screening we’ve had on the film, people have come out saying this is the kind of movie you want to see on the bigscreen. It’s a real popcorn movie,” said Sony distrib chief Rory Bruer.

Tracking on the new pics has so far been soft. “Stealth,” the latest actioner from helmer Rob Cohen, has so far been attracting the strongest interest from males over 25. Sony will release the film in 3,495 theaters.

‘Dogs’ and kids

Diane Lane-John Cusack romantic comedy “Must Love Dogs,” starting with 2,505 locations, has been gaining traction mainly among women over 25.

Kurt Russell kidpic “Sky High,” which Disney is taking out on 2,905, is seeking success in a genre notoriously tough to track.

Warners’ Fellman said he expects the aud profile for “Dogs” to even out over the weekend. “In our research screenings and radio promotions, we had a lot of men attend. Tracking might be skewed female, but a lot of women are going to bring their spouses. So the percentage of males to females will be higher than you might expect.”

In the limited arena, new titles include ThinkFilm’s raunchy comedy doc “The Aristocrats,” which starts in four theaters in Gotham and L.A.

Indican will unspool “God’s Sandbox” on three screens in L.A., while Cineguild bows “The Oyster Farmer” on two in Gotham.

Starting out with solo engagements are Empire’s “Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress” and First Run and Icarus’ “Three Rooms of Melancholia.”

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