'Jumper,' 'Maybe,' 'Spiderwick' set to compete

The film biz is turning Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day weekend into a five-day holiday at the domestic box office, with four new wide releases unspooling today in the hopes of wooing sweethearts looking for something to do.

There’s something for nearly all segments of the audience. Distributors are hoping the extended holiday sesh will bring the same sort of box office gains the film biz has seen for much of the new year.

Paramount/Nick Movies opens PG fantasy “The Spiderwick Chronicles” in 3,847 theaters; 20th Century Fox bows Doug Liman’s sci-fi adventure “Jumper” in 3,427; Disney goes out with sequel “Step Up 2 the Streets” in 2,470; and Universal and Working Title debut the Ryan Reynolds-Abigail Breslin romantic comedy “Definitely, Maybe” in 2,203.

It’s hard to know which of the new films will come out ahead. “Jumper” and “Spiderwick” will play the most broadly of the four. The two films each have their distinct advantages, and both are potential franchises.

“Spiderwick,” based on Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi’s popular kids book series, will offer something for families, although the film probably won’t appeal to kids much younger than 8.

The movie, which cost upwards of $90 million to produce, was directed by Mark Waters (“Freaky Friday,” “Mean Girls”). Pic is the first he’s helmed that’s heavily reliant on special effects.

“Spiderwick” — which features Freddie Highmore playing twins — revolves around a trio of children who meet magical creatures that come to life from their great-great uncle’s book. Pic also stars Sarah Bolger, David Strathairn and Mary-Louise Parker.

Last year, Disney fantasy family adventure “Bridge to Terebithia” grossed $28.6 million over the four-day Presidents Day weekend. Nicolas Cage starrer “Ghost Rider” scored the biggest Presidents Day opening ever, $51.9 million.

“Jumper” has an advantage in appealing to men and boys. Pic, starring Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson and Rachel Bilson, is a co-production with New Regency and cost under $85 million to produce.

One challenge for “Jumper” lies in its lack of huge stars; Fox is betting heavily on the storyline to draw auds. Movie revolves around a man with a genetic abnormality who discovers he can teleport himself, only to learn that there is an eternal war being fought between people like him and the evil Paladins.

U and Working Title’s “Definitely, Maybe,” directed by Adam Brooks, is the obvious Valentine’s Day date movie. Story revolves around a father and young daughter who travel down memory lane recalling the man’s failure at love. Rachel Wiesz, Elizabeth Banks and Isla Fisher also star.

U says that Working Title romantic comedies are usually sophisticated and hence don’t play as broadly and bow modestly — but they have strong legs. “Bridget Jones’s Diary” opened at $10.7 million in April 2001 on its way to grossing $71.5 million domestically.

“Definitely, Maybe” could have some competition, however, most immediately from Warner Bros. holdover “Fool’s Gold,” which led the box office last weekend with an opening gross of $21.6 million.

The Mouse House isn’t worried about finding the groove with dance romancer “Step Up 2 the Streets,” which should draw tween and teen girls, as well as women in their early 20s.

Sequel, starring Brianna Evigan, Adam Sevani and Robert Hoffman, features a different director and cast than “Step Up,” which grossed $20.6 million in its debut in August 2006. Storyline is similar, with the pic set again in a performing arts school, where two students from different walks of life fall in love.

Disney’s also counting on 3-D tween hit “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds” to bring in additional coin. Film heads into its third weekend with almost the same number of 3-D screens.

Arty, foreign fare

The specialty side also is celebrating Presidents Day weekend.

On Friday, the Weinstein Co.’s newly formed distribution arm Third Rail opens inaugural release “George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead” in 42 locations in key markets.

Magnolia makes available the 2007 Academy Award-nominated shorts in 70 theaters around the country. Bollywood romancer “Jodhaa Akbar” opens in 100 runs.

On the foreign front, “Jumper” looks likely to lead as Fox goes day-and-date with the sci-fi actioner in 30 international markets, including Australia, Russia, South Korea, Spain and the U.K. “Jumper” should have enough juice to end the two-week winning streak of French comedy “Asterix at the Olympic Games.”

Prospects for “Jumper” are upbeat in part since Warner’s “I Am Legend,” the most recent entry in the genre, performed impressively offshore with a foreign cume of $320 million. “Jumper” hits Belgium, France and Scandinavia next weekend.

Paramount’s also going day-and-date with “The Spiderwick Chronicles” but only in the Philippines and South Korea. And Universal’s expanding “Definitely, Maybe” into Australia and Ukraine after generating a modest $1.8 million from the comedy’s first five days in the U.K.

Fox is expanding “27 Dresses” into 13 more markets, including Brazil, Germany and Mexico. Early in its foreign run the comedy has taken $16 million from 14 territories.

U’s taking “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” into its final markets with launches in Brazil and Japan after cuming $48 million outside the U.S. Warner expands “Sweeney Todd” into Belgium and Spain, with $59 million already banked from 31 markets, and Paramount’s “Cloverfield” moves into seven mid-range markets, including Switzerland and Turkey, also after totaling $59 million overseas.

Other launches include “The Bucket List” in the U.K. and “The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep” in China and France.

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