‘Mountain’ climber

Niche pix expanding over MLK frame

The Martin Luther King Day frame will see four films opening wide, but in typical January style, none are expected to make a big splash.

Instead, pics with the most riding on them this month are those that played in limited release last month and are expanding. While nothing goes wide today, Focus’ “Brokeback Mountain” may prove the frame’s most interesting pic as it makes its biggest jump yet, adding 200 prints to reach 683 locations, including a number of very small cities and suburbs.

Disney’s “Glory Road” and Paramount’s “Last Holiday” are expected to come out on top in the mid- to high teens over four days. Lionsgate’s “Hostel” will be in the mix for its second weekend, while sixth frame for the leggy “Chronicles of Narnia” won’t be far behind.

Also bowing wide are Fox’s “Tristan & Isolde” and the Weinstein Co.’s “Hoodwinked,” but neither pic is expected to make it out of the single digits.

Meanwhile, “Memoirs of a Geisha” will be looking to salvage a weak domestic run as it hits several key European and Asian markets.

“Brokeback Mountain” will make its most daring move yet as part of the accelerated expansion Focus Features has been implementing following thus-far fantastic grosses.

Cowboy love drama this weekend gets a 40% playdate jump from 483 to 683. A few big cities that haven’t yet seen the pic will open this weekend, including Pittsburgh; Tucson, Ariz.; and Little Rock, Ark.

But most new prints are in small markets, such as Chattanooga, Tenn.; Charleston, S.C.; South Bend, Ind.; and Bismarck, N.D. The film will also expand deeper into the suburbs, including California’s conservative Simi Valley.

Though pic has done relatively well in the suburbs, it’s cities, even small ones, that have driven its impressive perf.

“In any new market, even small ones, there is so much pent-up demand that they are really moving this film’s business,” observed Focus distrib chief Jack Foley.

“Brokeback” is the only limited pic getting a significant expansion this frame. On Jan. 20, “New World” and “Match Point” will take on significantly broader runs.

Historical sports drama “Glory Road” hits 2,222 locations today. Based on solid sneaks last Saturday, Disney is aiming for a mixed adult aud of male sports fans and women drawn by the inspiring story.

Par’s “Last Holiday” remake starring Queen Latifah is aiming more squarely at women and African-Americans as it bows in 2,514 theaters.

Both pics have received decent marketing pushes, indicating the studios have some faith. As is typical with any January bow, however, hopes are relatively modest. Even over four days, both studios would be pleased with a finish in the high teens.

Frame’s other two bows feel more like the standard January dump. Fox is putting romantic epic “Tristan and Isolde” in 1,843 locations and counting only on young female moviegoers.

Weinstein Co.’s first family pic, “Hoodwinked,” debuts at 2,391 following a small Acad qualifying run last month. CG toon has gotten minimal marketing and isn’t likely to make much of an impact.

With limited awareness and interest and not much of a studio push, both pics are longshots to gross even $10 million over four days.

Both will likely be duking it out with “Brokeback,” even though they’re on three or four times as many playdates.

Overseas, Sony is hoping “Geisha” will turn into the hit that it hasn’t been Stateside. Distrib takes the film to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Denmark, Argentina, Uruguay and Indonesia, while BVI and Spyglass are releasing it in the U.K. and Spyglass takes it to Greece.

In its only significant foreign play thus far, “Geisha” has made a solid $10 million in Japan for BVI and Spyglass.

BVI’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” should remain the dominant player, however, topping UIP’s “King Kong” for a fourth straight weekend. As of mid-week, international gross for “Narnia” was nearing $300 million while “Kong” had hit $277 million.

“King Kong” opened its last major territory Thursday with a launch in China, while “Narnia” is launching in Turkey this weekend.

“Narnia” has cumed about $550 million worldwide, with “Kong” trailing by over $75 million.

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