'Money,' 'Waiting,' 'Gospel' seeing wide release

Five new wide releases crowd into multiplexes this weekend. Among them are DreamWorks’ “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” which will bow ultrawide at 3,645 theaters, and 20th Century Fox’s Cameron Diaz starrer “In Her Shoes,” which debuts at 2,808.

Universal unspools Morgan Creek’s Al Pacino-Matthew McConaughey gambling drama “Two for the Money” at 2,388, Lions Gate releases restaurant laffer “Waiting…” in 1,652, and Sony launches Screen Gems’ “The Gospel” at 969.

Industry estimates expect a tight race between “Wallace & Gromit” and “In Her Shoes,” with both pics finishing in the low- to mid-teens. Execs give “Were-Rabbit” a slight edge to exceed that range because of its ultrasaturated release pattern and the fact that kidpics are notoriously difficult to track.

“Were-Rabbit” is the second film from Aardman Animations, the shingle started by “Wallace & Gromit” creator Nick Park and partner Peter Lord. The company’s first pic, 2000’s “Chicken Run,” opened to $17.5 million from just 2,491 theaters, eventually cuming nearly $107 million.

DreamWorks expects the toon to skew young but hopes it will cross over to younger adults who have also been fans of the “Wallace & Gromit” characters.

“The initial audience is very young,” said DreamWorks prexy Jim Tharp, “but (crossover) may happen since the reviews have been so strong.”

DreamWorks had surprising success in October last year with its animated “Shark Tale,” which opened to $47.6 million and ultimately grossed $160 million.

No one expects “Were-Rabbit” to match those numbers. A better comparison may be recent toon “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride,” which rang up $19.1 million three weeks ago in its first frame of wide release.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “In Her Shoes” is attracting most of its aud interest from women over 25. That may put it in competish with “Were-Rabbit,” since it’s that demographic quadrant that typically accompanies younger tykes to kidpics.

Fox distrib topper Bruce Snyder, though, said he was unconcerned about any possible overlap. “I think we have an event movie for females. This is the kind of movie that brings out the people who go out to the movies just once or twice a year.”

Though neither “Shoes” or “Were-Rabbit” is expected to turn in a massive bow, Snyder added that both films are the type that “get a good multiple on their openings.”

“Two for the Money” is the first Morgan Creek pic that Universal has distribbed since the production company moved its deal to Lankershim after a long relationship with Warner Bros. Industry expectations are for the pic to bow somewhere south of $10 million.

“The Gospel” has more modest ambitions. Sony distrib chief Rory Bruer said the pic was produced on a $5 million budget. “If we open to $5 million, that’d be good,” he said.

Sony has been aggressively courting African-American churches in its marketing campaign, encouraging congregations to take in the church tale.

Among the major expansions this weekend, Disney is continuing to support historical golf pic “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” widening its run by 796 engagements a week after it opened to $3.7 million last weekend at 1,014.

Specialty pics that are getting bulked up this weekend include Miramax’s “Proof,” which will add 277 screens for a total of 517 in its fourth frame. Also playing in its fourth week of release, Warner Independent Pictures’ “Everything Is Illuminated” will move onto 25 new screens, pushing its run to 85.

Fresh titles in the limited arena this week include Samuel Goldwyn’s “The Squid and the Whale,” a Brooklyn family drama from helmer Noah Baumbach that plays four Gotham screens after bowing on two Wednesday.

Also opening are Warner Independent’s “Good Night, and Good Luck” on 11 screens in Gotham and L.A., Kino’s “The Overture” on two in San Francisco and Seventh Art’s “The Aggressives” at one solo Gotham engagement.

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