'Kong' tries to fend off laff bows
Sony and Fox are hoping moviegoers are in the mood for a funny Christmas.“Fun With Dick and Jane” and “Cheaper by the Dozen 2″ both open wide today, hoping to build momentum before a crowded Christmas weekend on which a holiday Sunday will likely throw off grosses. Transit strike in Gotham could also depress grosses a bit in that market. Both pics will likely end up competing for the No. 2 spot against the second frame of “King Kong.” If the big ape takes a greater-than-expected fall, however, it’s possible there could be competition for first place. “Dick and Jane,” which bows on 3,056 playdates, is part of an end-of-the-year push by Sony to regain its footing after a weak year with only one hit, last winter’s “Hitch.” Losing streak, combined with a production that went over schedule and over budget, has led to some anxiety at Sony about pic’s performance. Studio also is hoping for a boost from “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which goes wide Friday. While storyline of “Dick and Jane,” about a married couple who turn to crime following layoffs, appeals to adults, Sony is hoping the presence of star Jim Carrey will bring in younger auds and lead to broad interest. “The appeal is pretty spread out across every quadrant,” noted Sony domestic distrib topper Rory Bruer. “Wednesday and Thursday will probably play more to families, so we’ll have to take a look at the whole weekend to get the true story.” Sony is likely hoping for a perf as big as that of the last broad Jim Carrey comedy, 2003’s “Bruce Almighty,” which grossed $243 million. Expectations are more modest, however. Sony’s opening “Dick and Jane” in Japan on Saturday. Pic has a gradual release pattern with a Boxing Day launch in Australia, openings in German-speaking markets and Portugal on New Year’s weekend, Mexico on Jan. 13, the U.K. on Jan. 20, Italy on Jan. 27 and Spain on Feb. 10. With less riding on its success, Fox is resting a little easier with the opening of “Cheaper by the Dozen 2″ in 3,100 theaters today, reaching 3,169 Friday. Original pic opened on Christmas Thursday two years ago, grossing $27.6 million in its opening frame and going on to cume $138.6 million. Fox is undoubtedly hoping it can do as well in a second go-round with the same cast. Season’s other family comedy, Paramount’s “Yours, Mine and Ours,” opened to a modest $17.4 million but has since shown strong legs, declining just 30% in the last frame. Cume after four weeks is more than $45 million. With a host of serious, Oscar-targeted films playing over the holiday, Fox is hoping its pic will be the best alternative for families. “I think we’re perfectly positioned for families,” Fox domestic distrib prexy Bruce Snyder said. “There’s clearly a desire, though the market is a little more crowded than (with the first ‘Cheaper’ pic).” Theaters will get packed with product over the weekend. On Friday, “Geisha” goes wide and “Munich” and “The Ringer” open. Christmas Day brings “Rumor Has It” and “Wolf Creek” in wide release; “Casanova” and “The New World” in limited; and wide expansion of “The Producers.” Fox is launching “Cheaper by the Dozen 2″ Thursday and Friday in five major markets — Australia, Mexico, South Korea, Spain and the U.K. All turned in decent performances for the original, which grossed $51 million overseas. BVI’s starting a significant boost today on the foreign side for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” with openings in Belgium, France, Italy and Sweden. The family-friendly fantasy, which grossed $78.8 million in 13 markets as of Monday, will then open in Australia, Greece, Hungary, Holland and Singapore on Thursday and Russia on Friday. (Dave McNary contributed to this report.)
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