Attendance is on par with 2007

Movie attendance at the summer box office is running on par with 2007 levels for the first time, helping to narrow an overall decline in admissions that has plagued the B.O. for most of 2008.

This weekend, two comedies — Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s “Get Smart” and Paramount’s Mike Myers starrer “The Love Guru” — will go head-to-head as both open wide and try to partake in a strong June box office. It’s unusual for two high-profile laffers to open on the same date.

Many give “Get Smart,” toplining Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, the advantage. Directed by Peter Segal and unspooling in 3,911 theaters, the movie is expected to draw a broader crowd that includes fans of the classic spy spoof TV series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry as well as newcomers to the franchise.

“Love Guru,” bowing in 3,012 runs, is showing the most strength among younger males. Myers created the title character, Guru Pitka.

Among limited openings, Picturehouse bows “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” in five cities where the American Girl doll stores are located: L.A., Gotham, Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis. Abigail Breslin stars.

Holdovers competing with “Guru” and “Get Smart” for attention include Universal’s “The Incredible Hulk,” which opened to $55.4 million last week. Cume was $70.7 million through Wednesday, according to Rentrak. DreamWorks Animation/Paramount’s “Kung Fu Panda” continues to grab families, with a cume of $129.8 million through Wednesday.

The 2008 summer sesh has been surprisingly strong considering that the release calendar lacked the franchises — “Spider-Man,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Shrek” — that gave Hollywood its best summer ever last year.

Theater admissions have been down through 2008. But as of Wednesday, admissions at the summer box office were only slightly behind the year-earlier season at 208.4 million vs. 209.1 million for summer 2007. Admissions are still down for the year by 3%, but an especially strong June has helped to close the gap. At the beginning of the month, admissions were down for the year by more than 4%.

As of Wednesday, summer box office revenues were 2% ahead of the same period last year.

The bump is attributable to a number of films that performed better than expected. Whether this weekend will continue that trend remains to be seen.

Many had expected either “Get Smart” or “Guru” to move off the date, since the two comedies will have some degree of demo overlap. Paramount contends that there wasn’t a better weekend considering that “Love Guru” is going after young males. On a later weekend it would have had to compete with a number of male-skewing titles.

Hollywood has had a mixed track record when it comes to adapting TV series for the bigscreen, although New Line’s “Sex and the City” is one of the sleeper hits of summer 2008. While younger moviegoers won’t remember the 1960s TV series, the “Get Smart” cast is reasonably high profile. Starring alongside Carell and Hathaway are Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin.

Segal directed “Get Smart” form a script by Tom Astle and Matt Ember.

“Love Guru” cast skews younger. Starring with Myers are Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake and Verne Troyer (as well as Ben Kingsley). Making cameo appearances as themselves are Jessica Simpson, Kanye West and Deepak Chopra. Marco Schnabel directed from a script by Myers and Graham Gordy.

On the specialty side, new releases include Truly Indie’s Jason Patric-Samantha Morton dramedy “Expired,” which opens in one theater in Gotham. Sony Pictures Classics opens drama “Brick Lane” in New York and L.A.

Holdovers rather than new releases will dominate overseas. Warners is holding off on taking “Get Smart” into Europe amid competition from the Euro Cup soccer tourney and has opted for a moderate offshore launch in 13 Asian and Latin American markets, with Brazil and South Korea the most prominent.

“Smart” won’t expand into Europe until next month, and Par’s not opening “The Love Guru” outside the U.S. this weekend. Australia will be its first major market, bowing July 10.

“The Incredible Hulk” is likely to lead the international market this weekend with expansions into Italy and Spain after banking about $40 million in its first week. Fox’s “The Happening,” which topped the market last weekend with $31.8 million after opening in every major market, will also be a contender with launches in Argentina and Hungary.

“Sex and the City,” with a foreign cume of $145 million as of Wednesday, should remain a player with openings in Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Taiwan.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which has grossed $365 million internationally, will score more foreign coin via its Japanese launch — a month after it opened in nearly all other markets.

Par hasn’t yet secured a date for “Skull” in China but it’s likely to see serious coin from its opening of “Kung Fu Panda” in that market. The toon, which has already grossed $46 million from 15 overseas markets, also goes into Mexico.

Sony’s “21” expands into Hong Kong, Mexico and South Korea. The gambling thriller has cumed $63 million overseas.

Other launches include “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” in Belgium and France, “Made of Honor” in France and Greece, “Speed Racer” in France and “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” in Australia, Israel and Russia.

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