Will the ship hit the fans?

All eyes on 'Poseidon' B.O.

Warner Bros. hopes to avert that sinking feeling this weekend as its pricey “Poseidon” remake bows.

Studio aud tracking on the Wolfgang Petersen-helmed pic has been weak, leading to industry expectations that the film will have trouble opening past $20 million and will likely cede the weekend crown to “Mission: Impossible III” in its soph sesh.

Warner maintains “Poseidon” cost north of $150 million, but the budget was reportedly closer to $200 million.

All told, studios are girding for a weekend that will likely be well behind the comparable frame a year ago. If B.O. trails last year, it would be the first time in eight weeks; the March 17 frame, led by the $25.7 million “V for Vendetta” opening, trailed ’05 by 9%. Nonetheless, the year’s lead over last, currently 6%, isn’t in any danger this frame.

Warners is holding out the possibility that “Poseidon” could play better than expected. “The tracking is not up to our expectations,” distrib prexy Dan Fellman said, “but there certainly have been times in our past where the tracking has not indicated the true results of our films. Wolfgang has made a good movie, and I’m hoping for a good box office this weekend.”

As for “Mission’s” second week, a drop of over 50% would be in keeping with the sort of numbers posted by both previous entries in the spy franchise. Last summer, “War of the Worlds,” also starring Tom Cruise, saw biz drop 53% on its second weekend, making it likely that “MI3” will finish in the low 20s.

Warners will launch “Poseidon” at 3,555 theaters this weekend, while the other new wide releases include 20th Century Fox and Regency’s Lindsay Lohan vehicle “Just My Luck,” which opens at 2,541 locations.

That pic was expected to counterprogram “Poseidon” by appealing to younger femmes turned off by disaster pics; ironically, the strongest quadrant on “Poseidon” in the most recent tracking results is women under 25.

Still, “Luck” will likely be able to get into double digits for the frame.

Session’s other new wide release is soccer saga “Goal! The Dream Begins,” which Walt Disney will release at a relatively modest 1,007 locations.

“It’s one of those wonderful little movies where based on success, we’ll know where to take it,” Disney distrib topper Chuck Viane said.

With studios holding back most of the weekend’s new pics overseas, “MI3” is expected to dominate in international markets. Its foreign cume as of Wednesday reached $88.5 million, with the top contributions coming from South Korea ($13.1 million), the U.K. ($12.2 million) and France ($7.6 million).

“Poseidon” will open only in half a dozen Asian markets — India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

“MI3” is following the pattern from the previous two pics, which took in about 60% of their grosses overseas. First pic grossed $180 million domestically and $275 million foreign in 1996; “MI2” grossed $215 million domestically and $330 million overseas in 2000.

Warner is holding back “Poseidon” from major international markets until after the day-and-date openings of Sony’s “The Da Vinci Code” next weekend and Fox’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” during the following frame. “Poseidon” will launch in the U.K. on June 2, followed by a June 14 bow in France, June 23 debuts in Mexico and Russia and a July 13 opening in Germany — four days after soccer’s World Cup concludes.

Rivals have followed Warner’s lead and avoided “MI3” this weekend, with only a few targeted launches set, including a day-and-date launch of “Just My Luck” in Singapore. “Silent Hill” opens in Australia, Germany and Hong Kong; “The Hills Have Eyes” goes in Brazil, South Africa and Taiwan; “Aquamarine” launches in the U.K.

Last fall, “Goal!” was released in several soccer-friendly territories overseas, such as France, Mexico and Blighty, generating $17 million so far in foreign grosses.

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