B.O. black-tie affair

Bond, birds, Borat do battle

Can thousands of dancing penguins take down James Bond and “Borat”? In the first big face-off of the holiday season, Warner Bros.’ CG-animated “Happy Feet” and Sony/MGM’s latest Bond installment “Casino Royale” should be locked in a seesaw battle as the weekend B.O. frame unfolds and the two pics aim for different demos.

“Casino” should post big numbers Friday as the pic draws a core aud of adults, while “Feet” should benefit from strong matinee runs on Saturday, putting the pic in contention heading into Sunday.

Pic  dominated the U.K. market on its opening day Thursday with a strong $3.3 million at 988 playdates, accounting for 67% of Brit biz.

Stateside, “Casino” is tracking best with males 25-plus, while “Feet” is drawing most of its interest, not surprisingly, from the under-25 crowd. But “Feet” could have a trick up its sleeve as adult women and teens also seem primed to pounce.

Also a factor will be “Borat,” which has taken the No. 1 spot for the last two frames and will still be occupying 2,611 playdates.

Universal comedy “Let’s Go to Prison,” meanwhile, will try to stay afloat by pulling in some teen biz.

“Casino” will bow in 370 fewer engagements than “Feet.”

Revitalized Bond franchise also has added buzz thanks to topliner Daniel Craig, who has taken over as the international superspy and is gaining good word-of-mouth.

Last Bond pic, 2002’s “Die Another Day,” opened to $47 million in late November, on its way to $160.9 million.

Sony, however, feels that the film will perform as an original, not a sequel, because of the casting change, and will hope for an opening in line with a “National Treasure,” which bowed to $35.1 million a year ago.

“Casino” and “Feet” should be less of a head-to-head battle on the foreign front.

Sony’s likely to dominate as it goes day-and-date with “Casino Royale” with about 3,100 prints in 27 markets, led by about 1,000 in the U.K., 630 in Russia and 500 in India. Other launches for “Casino” are in midsize markets such as Greece, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore, Taiwan and Turkey. Sony has opted to wait until next weekend in France, Germany, Japan, Scandinavia and Spain.

Warners will bow “Happy Feet” day-and-date only in Malaysia, Puerto Rico and Taiwan, opting to wait until next month for opening major foreign markets.

Away from Hollywood’s big-budgeted guns, the specialty film sector will also get more crowded.

Miramax expands its Brit drama “The Queen” to 606 engagements from 484.

Fox Searchlight will roll out Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation” in 300 playdates, while Warner Independent sends Christopher Guest’s awards season comedy “For Your Consideration” into 23.

The Weinstein Co. opens political pic “Bobby” on two screens.

Also abroad, Fox’s “Borat” will likely lead the rest of the pack as it expands into France, Norway, Spain and South Africa. The spoof has shown solid traction overseas, leading during the past two weekends despite being in just 20 markets; foreign cume’s gone past $47 million and pic’s nearing $120 million worldwide.

Fox also is taking its other comedy hit, “The Devil Wears Prada,” into Japan, its last major market. “Devil” may crack the $300 million mark in worldwide grosses this weekend.

Other launches include “Babel” in Belgium and France,” “Barnyard” in the U.K., “Children of Men” in Italy, “The Departed” in Mexico, “The Grudge 2” in South Korea and Spain, “The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D” in Mexico and the U.K., “The Prestige” in France, and “The Queen” in France. “The Queen” has grossed $14 million domestically and $24 million in foreign markets, with about half that in the U.K.

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