‘Eagle Eye’ sets sights on box office

'Rodanthe,' 'St. Anna' also opening wide

DreamWorks and Paramount’s government-run-amok thriller “Eagle Eye” should shake the box office awake this weekend, while films going after older auds could see traffic slowed by Friday night’s planned presidential debate.

Latter category includes Warner Bros.’ Diane Lane-Richard Gere romantic drama “Nights in Rodanthe” and Disney’s WWII drama “Miracle at St. Anna,” directed by Spike Lee.

Studio distrib execs expect the weekend B.O. to be impacted by the debate, should it occur. Republican nominee John McCain was trying to delay the showdown with Democratic candidate Barack Obama because of the economic crisis, but by Thursday afternoon, McCain aides were indicating that he would show up.

Toplining Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan, the PG-13 “Eagle Eye” will open in 3,400 theaters. Pic revolves around two strangers who are framed as terrorists, only to find out that the U.S. government is setting them up.

This weekend last year, Disney family pic “The Game Plan” opened to $22.9 million; “Eagle Eye” is expected to do north of that and perhaps even reach $30 million. Also on the same weekend in 2007, Universal’s “The Kingdom” opened to $17.1 million.

Most are betting on “Nights in Rodanthe” to come in No. 2 for the weekend and possibly hit double digits. Film opens in 2,704 theaters. In September 2003, Lane starrer “Under the Tuscan Sun” debuted to $9.7 million.

“St. Anna” opens in far fewer theaters (1,185). Disney took a similar approach with two previous Lee films, “Summer of Sam,” which opened to $6 million, and “He Got Game,” which bowed to $7.6 million. “St. Anna” should fall in that range.

“St. Anna” is based on the real-life story of the all-black 92nd Infantry Division, which fought in Italy. Pic is tracking strongest among older males and should appeal heavily to African-Americans.

Among holdovers, Sony’s “Lakeview Terrace” and Focus Features’ “Burn After Reading” will remain strong players. Through Wednesday, the “Lakeview Terrace” cume was $17.9 million and “Burn After Reading” had hit $38.6 million. “Lakeview Terrace,” which came in No. 1 last weekend, enters its second sesh, while “Burn After Reading” heads into its third weekend.

Arty fare

New specialty offerings include Fox Searchlight’s Anjelica Huston-Sam Rockwell starrer “Choke,” which opens in 434 theaters.

Lionsgate takes Neil Burger’s Iraqi war drama “The Lucky Ones” out in 425. Samuel Goldwyn opens the Christian-themed “Fireproof,” starring Kirk Cameron, in more than 800 runs.

Among more specialized pics, Magnolia opens “Humboldt County” in 10 runs.

On the foreign front, “Nights in Rodanthe” and “Eagle Eye” are going day-and-date in a few markets but probably won’t make enough of a splash to dislodge summer holdovers such as “Mamma Mia!” from the top slots.

“Nights in Rodanthe” opens in Japan and Taiwan this weekend, then will move into Latin America next frame with launches in Brazil and Mexico, followed by the first European debuts Oct. 10.

Par’s opening “Eagle Eye” in a dozen markets, led by Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong and Mexico. Prospects are decent given the appetite shown by foreign audiences for actioners such as “Wanted,” which has cumed nearly $180 million outside the U.S.

Universal’s “Mamma Mia!” looks likely to head the international list for the fourth straight frame thanks to its dazzling holdover biz with foreign grosses now past $340 million. It’s also launching this weekend in Russia and Ukraine.

U should also see more life from “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” which launches in Italy. The third “Mummy” film has been far more impressive overseas with cumulative coin around $275 million — nearly three times the $102 million domestic cume.

Disney’s continuing the gradual release strategy on “Wall-E” with launches in Austria, Germany and Turkey and foreign grosses past $200 million. The Mouse House opted to avoid head-to-head competition with Par’s “Kung Fu Panda,” which has now hit $410 million overseas.

Paramount’s expanding “Tropic Thunder” with launches in nine markets including Holland and Spain. The laffer’s still early in its foreign run with $32 million.

“Iron Man” moves into its final major market with a launch in Japan after cuming $253 million overseas. Other openers include “Death Race” in the U.K., “Hellboy 2” in South Korea and Sweden and “Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D” in Australia, Greece, New Zealand and Ukraine.

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