September strides at B.O.

Only 11 films have opened to $20 million or more during the normally slack month of September. This weekend, there could be two bows at or above $20 million.

After a week of strong limited play, Warner Bros.’ “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” will expand to 3,204 theaters. Walt Disney, meanwhile, launches “Flightplan” at 3,424.

Also debuting today with more modest expectations is Fox Searchlight’s ’70s roller-rink pic “Roll Bounce” at 1,625.

Coming into the weekend with strong tracking, both “Bride” and “Flightplan” have a good shot at capturing the box office crown.

Industry estimates give “Bride” a slight edge in the race because interest is pretty balanced in all four quadrants, while the Jodie Foster thriller looks likely to skew older.

Given the expected destruction along the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Rita this weekend, overall B.O. could take a hit. Houston, which has been ordered evacuated, is the center of the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the country.

“Bride” is Burton’s second stop-motion animated feature; “The Nightmare Before Christmas” opened in 1993 to $8.2 million. But with both Burton and Johnny Depp, who did voice work in “Bride,” coming off the $203 million-grossing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the latest pic is expected to do bigger biz.

Warners is particularly optimistic about the film after it opened last week to $388,166 at five theaters in Gotham, L.A. and Toronto, giving it an exceptional per-screen average of $77,633.

Meanwhile, “Flightplan” marks a return to the thriller genre for Foster, whose last foray, “Panic Room,” bowed to $30 million in 2002.

Recently, DreamWorks opened another plane thriller, “Red Eye,” to $17 million. And the successful $30 million opening for Sony’s “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” shows there’s still some life to the frightener market.

In the limited realm, several distribs are expanding their early fall entrants. Miramax is pushing “An Unfinished Life” into wide release, bulking up its run by 135 screens for a total of 888. It’s also expanding “Proof,” adding 76 engagements in its second week for a total run of 84.

Picturehouse is widening “The Thing About My Folks” to 144 screens, up 51, while Warner Independent Pictures pushes “Everything Is Illuminated” to 26 screens, an expansion of 20.

New pics in the limited realm this weekend include Roman Polanski’s “Oliver Twist,” which Sony starts on five screens in Gotham, L.A. and Toronto, and New Line’s “A History of Violence” on 14. Miramax’s Johnny Knoxville title “Daltry Calhoun” begins on 13 over the frame.

Also bowing are First Look’s “Dirty Love” on 45 screens, Eros’ “Dil jo bhi kahey” on 32, and Televisa’s “Seven dias” on 29.

Castle Hill will start “Proud” on 19 screens in the D.C.-Baltimore area, while Wellspring unspools “Dear Wendy” on seven.

Starting in Gotham this weekend are TLA’s “Dorian Blues,” Slowhand’s “Into the Fire” and Rumur’s “Occupation Dreamland,” the latter also bowing in Portland, Ore.

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