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‘Earth’ takes on the box office

Fox goes out of this world for pic promo

Twentieth Century Fox’s remake of sci-fi classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” will be the widest release ever –if you count outer space.

At the same time that the film opens today in theaters, Fox and a privately owned celestial communications network will use equipment at Cape Canaveral, Fla., to begin beaming “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to Earth. The galactic stunt is a first-ever for a Hollywood studio.

But if there is a life in Alpha Centauri, it will take four years for it to receive the transmission of the sci-fi actioner, which toplines Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly and Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith.

Back on Earth, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” opens in 3,560 runs domestically, including more than 120 Imax theaters. Pic also makes an aggressive push at the international box office.

Fox has the advantage of a relatively clean date, although early reviews of the film are less than kind with some scathing.

The only other new wide release is Overture’s urban laffer “Nothing Like the Holidays,” which goes out in 1,671 runs. John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Pena star.

Given Fox’s troubled track record at the box office this year, the pressure is on for “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Pic, directed by Scott Derrickson, is tracking strongest among men, but women are intrigued as well.

Reeves, who has shied away from remakes, says he considers the film a “reimagining,” as opposed to a redo, of Robert Wise’s 1951 black-and-white original, one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time.

In the update, Cold War politics are swapped out for global warming, with Reeves’ character arriving on Earth to judge whether the human race has the wherewithal to save their planet.

Remakes are a risky business, particularly if the original enjoys cult status.

“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” also starring John Cleese, Jon Hamm and Kathy Bates, is the only f/x-driven actioner of the Christmas season.

Box office observers expect the film to open at about $25 million or possibly higher. Reeves starrer “Constantine” opened to $29.8 million. Last year on the same weekend, Warner Bros. opened Will Smith starrer “I Am Legend,” which debuted to $77 million thanks to Smith.

On the foreign front, Fox is taking “The Day the Earth Stood Still” into nearly every international territory with an offshore launch of 7,700 screens this weekend in 90 markets.

That’s short of the saturation level of nearly 10,000 that Sony secured for “Quantum of Solace” last month. Fox will take “The Day the Earth Stood Still” into Japan next weekend, followed by South Korea on Christmas Day, Australia on Dec. 26, Argentina on New Year’s Day and Brazil on Jan. 9.

Sci-fi disaster fare has generally shown strong traction outside the U.S., with “The Day After Tomorrow” taking in $356 million internationally and “War of the Worlds” grossing $357 million offshore. During the summer, Fox’s “The Happening” took in nearly $100 million overseas — $35 million more than domestic cume.

Fox is also taking “Australia” into South Korea. The epic’s cumed $10.6 million through Wednesday in Australia after its first two weeks.

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