'Nim's Island,' The Ruins' also opening wide

George Clooney’s screwball romantic comedy “Leatherheads” should lead what’s expected to be a relatively modest weekend at the domestic box office.

Universal opens “Leatherheads” in 2,777 theaters, marking the first time a film directed by Clooney has opened wide. He also stars alongside Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski.

Clooney should be enough of a draw for the film to win the weekend, but with a likely total opening gross of under $20 million.

Twentieth Century Fox opens family adventure-fantasy “Nim’s Island,” from Fox Walden and starring Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler and Abigail Breslin, in 3,513 theaters.

“Nim’s” could end up in a relatively close race for No. 2 with Sony holdover “21,” depending on how much the card-counting drama drops in its second sesh after opening to $24.1 million last weekend.

DreamWorks/Paramount have more modest expectations for R-rated horror pic “The Ruins,” produced by DreamWorks and Spyglass Entertainment. “Ruins” opens in 2,812 theaters.

The Par family has another movie opening this week, Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert docu “Shine a Light.” Paramount Classics unspools the film in 276 theaters, with 93 of those being large-format Imax locations. That makes it the largest Imax opening ever. Many of the regular theaters where the film is playing are in markets without an Imax screen.

In another sort of musical offering, the Metropolitan Opera is expanding its live hi-def theatrical broadcast program to include 19 Princess Cruise ships. This Saturday’s live broadcast into more than 500 theaters worldwide, including the Princess fleet, will be of “La Boheme.”

If there’s been a lack of offerings for older moviegoers of late, “Leatherheads” could change that. Film is tracking strongly among both older males and older females, and has been heavily advertised by U. Clooney and Zellweger have done a media blitz, particularly in the flyover states, hosting special screenings of the film.

Film is set in 1925 in the early days of pro football and tells the story of a rowdy but aging football player who tries to drum up interest for the league by recruiting a college gridiron star. Zellweger plays a journalist chronicling the antics.

“Leatherheads,” rated PG-13, is the third movie directed by Clooney after specialty pics “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” It cost roughly $58 million to produce.

“Nim’s” is the third release from Fox Walden after “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” which grossed $32 million domestically, and “Seeker: The Dark Is Rising,” which grossed $8.8 million.

Fantasy-adventure revolves around a young girl who enlists her favorite author to help find her father when he goes missing from an island. It is tracking solidly among younger demos. In particular, younger kids and mothers could help drive ticket sales.

“Nim’s” should benefit from being the only new family title in the market, with Fox’s “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” now entering its fourth sesh. With a domestic cume of $120.9 million through Wednesday, “Horton” is the most successful 2008 film to date.

Elsewhere at the box office, Scorsese was intent on using Imax screens as a showcase for “Shine a Light,” because of the particular quality of image and sound offered by the large-format exhib.

“Shine a Light” contains footage Scorsese shot of the Rolling Stones’ most recent tour, along with archival footage of the band’s long career.

Other specialty openings include the Weinstein Co.’s “My Blueberry Nights,” directed by Wong Kar Wai and toplining Jude Law and Norah Jones. Dramedy also stars Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman and David Strathairn. Film, which bows in six theaters in New York and Los Angeles, was the opening-night film of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

First Look bows “Meet Bill” in 36 theaters; Anchor Bay opens “Sex and Death 101″ in three locations in Gotham and L.A.; IFC releases “The Flight of the Red Balloon” in two runs in New York; and Zeitgeist unspools “Jellyfish” in four Gotham theaters.

On the foreign front, “Horton Hears a Who!” looks likely to win its second weekend title, thanks to a French opening. The toon’s already cumed about $80 million from 52 markets despite the fact that the Dr. Seuss characters are largely unknown outside the United States.

Animated fare has been performing impressively in foreign multiplexes, with “Bee Movie” having topped $160 million. With openings still coming in Italy, Japan and South Korea, “Horton” should wind up well above $100 million overseas.

Studios are expanding family fare internationally. U, which is handling “Nim’s Island” in some overseas markets, is going day-and-date in Australia; Fox is taking “Alvin and the Chipmunks” into China following a $140 million foreign take; and Paramount is opening “The Spiderwick Chronicles” in Australia with $51 million already banked.

Par’s also launching “Cloverfield” in Japan, its final major foreign market, with offshore grosses at $78 million. And its Oscar best picture winner “No Country for Old Men” should go past the $80 million international mark this weekend.

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