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Will ‘United’ take flight at B.O.?

'RV,' 'Akeelah' also bowing this weekend

Two case studies will be ripe for dissection after the weekend box office plays out.

Universal is wondering whether people are ready for a 9/11 movie, and Lionsgate tests what a marketing blitz at Starbucks means at the box office.

Meanwhile, a Robin Williams family comedy is expected to dominate the weekend.

Sony’s “RV” should drive to the No. 1 spot with a gross in the 20s, while “United 93,” “Akeelah and the Bee” and Disney’s “Stick It” will likely bunch together around the $10 million mark, along with the second weekend of “Silent Hill.” But it’s the opening perf of “United 93,” which hits 1,795 playdates, that’s toughest to predict.

With the pic’s Tuesday preem at the Tribeca Film Festival generating lots of publicity, unaided awareness of the film has grown. That’s translated into a significant uptick in the number of people who say it’s their first-choice film to see this weekend.

“United” is tracking strongest among new titles for males of all ages and is particularly strong with older men. Results are more mixed among women. While older femmes are more interested, the number in that quadrant who say they are “definitely not interested” has increased since earlier tracking.

Likely attendance also seems to be breaking down geographically. Auds in smaller markets are more interested in seeing the pic, while the percentage of people in larger markets with no interest nearly doubles the level in the smaller towns.

“United 93” won’t have its international debut until the Cannes Film Festival in May. UIP will roll it out in Germany and the U.K. in June and other markets throughout the summer.

“Akeelah and the Bee” will bow at 2,195 theaters — a little bigger than “Crash,” an indie film with which Lionsgate did very well after opening it wide last spring.

Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne starrer is the first pic to be promoted by Starbucks as part of its program to take a financial stake in films in exchange for extensive promotion in all of its stores. “Akeelah’s” success will help determine how much leverage Starbucks has when it signs future partnerships with studios, as it intends to do.

Pic is tracking strongest with adult women and African-Americans. Disney’s gymnastics film “Stick It” is going exclusively after teen girls, along with the boys they might drag along, at its 2,038 locations. Opening doesn’t look likely to come close to that of the similarly themed “Bring It On,” which bowed to $17.4 million in August 2000.

Bowing at a very wide 3,639 playdates, Robin Williams starrer “RV” should dominate the family aud now that “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and “The Wild” are both fading.”Ice Age” should win its fifth straight weekend at the foreign box office. International cume hit $349 million as of Wednesday.

Openings include “American Dreamz” in Australia; “Date Movie” in France; “Eight Below” in France, Spain and Brazil; “The Wild” in Holland and Russia; and “Slither” in the U.K.    

In limited release Stateside, Fox Searchlight is bowing Indian pic “Water” at five theaters.

Lionsgate expands pedophile revenge story “Hard Candy” from two plays to 152.

(Dave McNary and Gabriel Snyder contributed to this report.)

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