Jodie Foster expected to top weekend

Jodie Foster returns to the bigscreen this weekend as a vigilante in Neil Jordan’s “The Brave One,” which Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures bow in 2,755 locations.

Violent, R-rated drama, which also stars Terrence Howard, has a clear shot at the weekend crown.

Other wide entrants are South Korean English-language monsterfest “Dragon Wars,” which Freestyle takes out in 2,275 locations. New Line opens laffer “Mr. Woodcock,” toplining Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott and Susan Sarandon, in 2,231.

New players will compete with the soph session of Lionsgate and Relativity Media’s “3:10 to Yuma.” Directed by James Mangold and starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Ben Foster, the Western remake showed surprising strength in its debut, grossing $14 million and nabbing one of the top debuts for a dramatic oater. Pic plays 2,667 locations.

Elsewhere this weekend, the fall specialty race gets fully under way with the limited bows of David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises,” which Focus Features opens in 14 theaters in key markets, and Paul Haggis’ “In the Valley of Elah,” which Warner Independent Pictures opens in nine markets.

There’s a bevy of other limited debuts, including Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe,” which Sony and Revolution open in 23 locations in top markets; Michael Douglas starrer “King of California,” which First Look rolls out in New York and Los Angeles; and Daniel Radcliffe starrer “December Boys,” which Warner Independent likewise opens in L.A. and Gotham.

The Weinstein Co. debuts docu “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song” in three locations, while Cinema Libre opens docu “Angels in the Dust,” about a privileged South African couple who open a shelter and school for 500 children, in one theater in New York.

“Brave One,” produced by Joel Silver, marks Foster’s first toplining role since “Flightplan,” which opened to $24.6 million in September 2005 on its way to a domestic cume of $89.7 million. “Panic Room,” released in 2002, opened at $30 million on its way to a domestic cume of $95.3 million.

More recently, she appeared in “Inside Man.”

With “Brave One,” Foster continues her penchant for playing tough women.

“Brave One” marks the first film for the eclectic Jordan (“The Crying Game”) since the 2005 indie title “Breakfast on Pluto,” released by Sony Pictures Classics.

New Line hopes to get the yuks going at the box office with “Woodcock,” directed by Craig Gillespie, and, like Warner with “Brave One,” it is hoping to draw auds based on the star factor.

“Dragon Wars,” a hit in South Korea earlier this year, is going for the fanboys. Sci-fier, in which creatures destroy downtown L.A., was directed by Shim Hyeung-rae.

On the foreign front, summer holdovers “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Simpsons” look likely to lead as both add major markets to their overseas runs.

Universal’s “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which has won three of the last four international weekends, launches in Benelux, France and South Korea. The Matt Damon actioner led in France on its opening day Wednesday with $622,454 — topping the first days of “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

“Ultimatum” made it past $104 million from 38 overseas markets as of Wednesday, only $8 million short of the final foreign cume of “The Bourne Supremacy.”

“The Simpsons Movie” should mint more overseas coin for Fox with its launch in Italy. The toon’s already scored a surprisingly strong $310 million internationally; release date in Japan, its final foreign market, has been moved forward from March to December.

Sony’s launching raunchy comedy hit “Superbad,” produced by Judd Apatow, into its first foreign markets with openings in the U.K. and New Zealand. Universal’s taken a similarly gradual approach with Apatow’s “Knocked Up” with $48 million from 19 markets so far.

Universal — which has stepped up its activity in recent weeks in foreign markets — is also expanding “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” in Spain.

Warner Bros. is going day-and-date with “The Brave One” in several mid-tier Asian markets such as Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand. It’s also tapped this frame for a major expansion of “No Reservations” into France, Germany and Italy.

Other openings include “A Mighty Heart” in Germany and Spain, “Hairspray” in Australia, “Rush Hour 3″ in Russia, “Shrek the Third” in Greece” and “Surf’s Up” in Australia and Germany.

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