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Tentpoles hurt counterprogramming

Smaller films finding it tough to stand out

Warner Bros.’ “Lucky You” had the misfortune of opening opposite “Spider-Man 3” last weekend, but several other pics could share a similar fate in what could prove to be a very tough month for counterprogramming.

With a raft of likely blockbuster summer sequels hitting 4,000-plus theaters this month and sucking up screens, giving auds a less obvious choice at the multiplex looks like a tenuous strategy.

“In May, the idea of counterprogramming is going to be problematic,” said one studio distribution topper. “It’s going to be hard for other (nontentpole) movies in May to open to maybe $10 million.”

The old-fashioned approach dictated that auds showing up to find their top choice sold out at multiplexes would spill over into other, less high-profile pics.

But when three summer blockbusters are occupying theaters at the same time, such smaller pics will have more difficulty than usual standing out.

“With 11,000 prints running, there is no spillover,” said one studio exec when pondering previous strategies.

With “Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek the Third” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” going as wide as they possibly can this month, studio pros say their success will make smaller pics’ takes punier by comparison, giving the impression that the counterprogramming perfs are even more anemic.

Despite opening in 2,525 theaters, the Drew Barrymore-Eric Bana vehicle “Lucky” bowed in sixth place, managing just $2.7 million in its first weekend and a per-location average of about $1,000.

Then again, B.O. pundits said after the pic’s dismal bow that the troubled, Las Vegas-set “Lucky,” which has had release dates changed since December 2005, never had much of a chance no matter when it rolled.

This weekend, when Spidey swings for the fences again, pics offered up as alternative fare include Fox Searchlight’s “28 Weeks Later,” Universal’s “Georgia Rule,” MGM’s “The Ex” and Lionsgate’s “Delta Farce.”

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