'Charlie,' 'Crashers' hunting sweet B.O.

Twin big-ticket openings of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Wedding Crashers” aim to keep the box office hot for a second straight weekend.

Warner Bros. is releasing the family pic toplining Johnny Depp at 3,770 theaters while New Line is taking the R-rated Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughn comedy out at 2,925.

With “Charlie” expected to open near the same level as last weekend’s $56 million bow for 20th Century Fox’s “Fantastic Four,” and “Crashers” expected to deliver impressive numbers as well, the weekend box office is likely to run ahead of the same frame in 2004, when Fox bowed “I, Robot” to $52.2 million.

Tracking on “Charlie” has been surging in its final week before release, with interest strong from both family auds as well as the adults fond of the 1971 original.

“It looks like a movie that people want to see,” Warners distrib exec VP Jeff Goldstein said. “It’s a true four-quadrant film.”

Depp’s last summer tentpole was Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” which opened in July 2003 with $46.6 million.

Only obstacle potentially in “Charlie’s” way may be the latest “Harry Potter” tome, which will go on sale Saturday. But Warners hopes the young fans of “Potter” will have no trouble finding time to consume “Chocolate,” too.

As theaters crack down on selling tykes tickets to R-rated pics, openings for racy comedies have been dampened. The last big-bowing R-rated summer comedy came in 2001, when the second “American Pie” pic debuted with $45.1 million.

Boosting “Crashers,” however, are signs of broad interest in the pic. Tracking has been nearly balanced among men and women, as well as those over and under 25 years old.

“Any time you go with an R you’re going to restrict some of your audience,” New Line distrib chief David Tuckerman said. “But this picture is, in some ways, going to end up being a four-quadrant movie. We’re going to get everyone.”

In the limited arena, new films include Lions Gate’s “Happy Endings,” which will start on 52 screens.

Most specialty action this weekend will come from the expansions. Warner Independent is adding 68 screens on its nature doc “March of the Penguins” for a total of 132; IFC is bulking up the run on “Me and You and Everyone We Know” by 40 to a total of 97 screens.

Other new offerings this weekend include Miramax’s “The Warrior,” which will start on four screens in both Gotham and L.A.

Also bowing this weekend, with solo Gotham engagements, are Palm’s “Memories of Murder” and Strand’s “The Reception.”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more