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Scare fare tries to spook ‘Pirates’

Captain Jack faces plank of openers

This weekend promises to be a particularly tight one at the box office as four new films open and a fifth, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” has a good shot at landing a three-peat in the No. 1 spot.

Overseas, “Pirates” should dominate once again as it expands to Brazil, Japan, Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

Warner Bros.’ “Lady in the Water,” Sony’s “Monster House,” Fox’s “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” and the Weinstein Co. and MGM’s “Clerks II” all hit theaters this weekend, with the first two expected to have the biggest openings and potentially challenge “Pirates” if they hit the high 20s or possibly low 30s.

While tracking the best of the four openers, “Lady in the Water,” which hits 3,235 playdates, looks likely to bow significantly lower than M. Night Shyamalan’s last two pics, “The Village” and “Signs,” which drew $50.7 million and $60.1 million, respectively. Bow should be more in line with that of 2000’s “Unbreakable,” which grossed $30.3 million its opening weekend.

Shyamalan’s pics have traditionally had strong legs, but he broke that trend with 2004’s “The Village,” whose domestic cume was $114.2 million. Given its more modest opening weekend expectations, Warner Bros. will have to hope for better word of mouth on its first project with him despite largely negative reviews.

Only foreign markets getting “Lady” day-and-date are Thailand and the Philippines.

“Monster House,” which has the widest opening at 3,553 theaters, should benefit from the absence of any animated pics in the market since “Cars” debuted in early June. Last toon made with motion-capture technology, WB’s “Polar Express,” opened to $23.3 million in 2004 and held on very well, eventually cuming $162.8 million; Sony hopes to repeat, if not best, that performance.

Pic will benefit from playing 163 locations in digital 3-D, which should generate more interest and allow some theaters to charge a premium. “Chicken Little,” the first film to use the digital 3-D process from Real D, saw a significant B.O. boost at theaters playing the film in digital 3-D.

“Dead Man’s Chest” grossed an astonishing $280 million by Wednesday and will easily surpass the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” cume of $305 million over the weekend. Last weekend and subsequent weekdays have been down about 54%, setting up the theme park adaptation to gross around $30 million this frame.

The last time a summer film was No. 1 at the box office for three straight weekends was “American Pie 2” in 2001.

As of Wednesday, sequel had surpassed $148 million from 24 markets. Worldwide cume is $428 million.

Pic still has several major markets to hit, including Germany next weekend, France the following frame and Spain the weekend after that.

In head-to-head confrontations, “Pirates” has topped “Superman Returns,” which has cumed more than $80 million in 36 markets. Warner Bros. will expand the tentpole to Turkey this weekend, then open in Scandinavia next weekend.

Fox is bowing comedy “My Super Ex-Girlfriend” at 2,702 playdates. Pre-release tracking shows the Uma Thurman-Luke Wilson starrer drawing little interest, and it will likely open in the teens.

Pic also opens in Australia.

“Clerks II,” which MGM is distributing for the Weinstein Co., hits 2,150 playdates and will likely appeal to writer-director Kevin Smith’s core male aud. His biggest previous opening was the $11 million for “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” on its first weekend in 2001. “Clerks II” bow will likely be close to that.

Frame will also feature more targeted openings of pics that had been held out of major overseas markets until the end of the World Cup and the openings of “Pirates” and “Superman Returns.”

UIP launches “The Break-Up” in the U.K. and Thailand; romantic comedy has grossed $25 million internationally in 17 markets, led by $7 million in Australia.

UIP also goes wider with “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” which launches in France, Korea and Spain. Actioner has cumed $46 million from 28 markets, led by $10 million in the U.K.

BVI’s expanding “Cars” into South Korea, and UIP’s opening “Over the Hedge” in Belgium. “Hedge” has grossed about $91 million from 44 markets, while “Cars” is at $88 million from 31 territories.

Fox is expanding “Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties” into the U.K. and France.

After several delays, UIP’s launching “Mission: Impossible III” in China — its final foreign market. Pic has cumed $232.6 million overseas. Top markets have been Korea, with $37 million; the U.K., with $29 million; and Japan, with $25 million in three weeks.

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