HBO title touted as femme-friendly event film

In an unusual reversal of box office politics, women will be driving weekend traffic as New Line and Warner Bros. open the bigscreen adaptation of former HBO series “Sex and the City” in 3,285 theaters today.

Particularly in the summer months, female-skewing films are used as a counterprogramming tool against the testosterone-driven tentpoles, not as event pics unto themselves.

In this case, the R-rated “Sex and the City” is the most buzzed-about movie of the weekend, while Universal will counterprogram with Rogue horror title “The Strangers,” which opens in 2,467 runs. They are the only two new wide releases.

“Sex and the City” has already shown decent foreign traction with $7.3 million at 2,264 in its opening day in France, Germany and the U.K. The high-profile comedy’s also launching this weekend in Austria, Italy, Singapore and South Africa.

Domestically and internationally, the weekend winner is likely to be Paramount holdover “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Pic could do as much as $50 million in business at the domestic B.O. and easily jump the $200 million mark in only its second weekend in release. Domestic cume through Wednesday was $165.6 million, according to Rentrak.

“Sex and the City” provides the first fresh glimpse of characters Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha since the skein went off the air four years ago. Women, particularly in big cities, are responding by buying tickets in advance, leading to numerous sold-out Friday and Saturday night shows.

Film, written and directed by Michael Patrick King and reuniting the original cast, has clear advantages, and disadvantages, in terms of box office allure.

On the plus side, the film has a built-in fanbase. On the other hand, the pic is rated R, making it tougher for teen girls to see it, and it may not play as well in smaller markets.

Warner Bros., which is distributing the movie for the pared-down New Line, said the film doesn’t need men to work.

“With movies that appeal to boys and men, you never hear the conversation ‘I hope we get the women.’ We have a movie that skews heavily female, and while we would love to get as many men as possible, we can do extremely well without them,” said Warners prexy of domestic distribution Dan Fellman.

Warner Bros. took over distribution of “Sex and the City” after Time Warner dismantled New Line as a standalone studio and made it a label within the WB fold.

New Line and Warners hope to generate the sort of B.O. revenue and interest that 20th Century Fox’s “The Devil Wears Prada” did when opening opposite “Superman Returns” two years ago.

“Prada,” toplining Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, became a sleeper hit, bowing to an estimated $27.5 million on its way to cuming $124.7 million domestically. Pic did benefit from male interest later on its run.

A year ago, director Judd Apatow’s R-rated “Knocked Up” opened to $30.7 million. Unlike other romantic comedies, Apatow’s films tend to draw more men.

Universal said it’s in a good position with the R-rated “Strangers,” directed by Bryan Bertino and starring Liv Tyler, considering how much “Sex and the City” is weighted toward females.

On the specialty side, Paramount Vantage opens Sundance comedy “The Foot Fist Way,” produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s production shingle, in four theaters.

IFC Films bows family drama “Savage Grace,” toplining Julianne Moore, in two theaters in New York. ThinkFilm opens Mena Suvari-Stephen Rea drama “Stuck” in two theaters in L.A. and Gotham.

And Magnolia bows docu “Bigger, Stronger, Faster” in six theaters in L.A. and Gotham.

On the foreign front, “Crystal Skull” should continue its domination after notching the fifth-biggest launch frame of all time with $146.4 million last weekend.

The tentpole tacked on another $42 million during the Monday-Wednesday period, bringing the overseas cume to $188 million and signaling that it’s still got plenty of gas in the tank. The U.K.’s led the parade with $40 million, followed by France with $16 million and Spain and Germany with $14 million each.

This weekend “Crystal Skull” expands into India, whose box office has been surging recently. Pic won’t open in Japan for three more weeks.

Best-case scenario would be for “Sex and the City” to wind up with same kind of numbers as “The Devil Wears Prada,” with $200 million internationally, and “Hitch,” which took in $188 million offshore.

Fox has seen respectable offshore results for its recent pair of romantic comedies. “What Happens in Vegas,” with $81 million after three weeks, expands into Mexico and South Korea; “27 Dresses,” with a $78 million foreign cume, goes into its final markets in China and Japan.

Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” widens into Brazil, Poland, Singapore and Thailand with well over $50 million from its first 13 markets in two weeks. Other launches include “Leatherheads” in Australia, “Speed Racer” in Russia and “Things We Lost in the Fire” in Germany.

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