Three’s a crowd at the box office

'Duplicity' and 'Knowing' battle 'Love You, Man'

A trio of pics — Nicolas Cage sci-fi disaster pic “Knowing,” Julia Roberts romantic caper “Duplicity” and Paul Rudd-Jason Segel buddy comedy “I Love You, Man” — are expected to fuel another strong weekend at the domestic box office.

All three have solid-to-strong tracking among their respective target demos.

Summit Entertainment opens “Knowing” in 3,332 theaters, making it the widest release of the sesh.

The new titles will likely push Disney holdover “Race to Witch Mountain” to No. 4 in its second weekend, although as a family film it has a competitive edge. “Witch Mountain” topped the box office last weekend.

Paramount and DreamWorks open “I Love You, Man” in 2,711 runs. Film follows in the footsteps of such titles as “Wedding Crashers” and “Pineapple Express.” There’s even a new expression to describe the genre — “bromantic comedies.”

Universal’s “Duplicity,” debuting in 2,575, pairs Roberts with Clive Owen. Pic marks a return to the sort of romantic fare on which the actress built her career.

U expects the film to debut with at least $15 million. Femme-driven films can have sturdy legs, so a big opening isn’t required.

“Duplicity” is tracking best among women over age 25, but men could turn out, too. “I Love You, Man” will draw younger eyeballs, usually an advantage, and has received the best reviews among the three pics.

“Knowing” is showing the most interest among men. Cage has starred in a number of genre actioners, often with good results. “Ghost Rider” scored Cage his highest opening weekend at $45.4 million in February 2007.

Box office forecasters expect “Knowing” to perform more along the lines of “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” which opened to $25.3 million, or “Con-Air,” which bowed to $24.1 million.

Fox’s male-driven actioner “Taken” has been the sleeper hit of 2009, along with Sony comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” Summit and Par hope to continue that trend with “Knowing” and “I Love You, Man,” while U will look to “Duplicity” to drive up the sort of grosses enjoyed by several femme-driven pics in the last year.

One advantage for “Duplicity” is a day-and-date launch overseas, where Roberts is a brand name. Film opens on 998 screens in 10 markets, including the U.K., Spain and Australia, where it will go head-to-head with 20th Century Fox holdover “Marley and Me.”

“Marley” placed No. 1 at the international box office last weekend in a surprise show of strength and could top the chart again this sesh. Its distribs hope “Duplicity” can tap into the same appetite. “Marley’s” foreign cume is $50 million, and it’s still early in its run.

Like Roberts, Cage is a brand name abroad. “Knowing” doesn’t begin its foreign run until next week, when it opens in the U.K.

On the specialty side at the domestic box office, Overture expands “Sunshine Cleaning” from four to 64 runs. Last weekend the film, starring Emily Blunt, Amy Adams and Alan Arkin, scored a per-location average of more than $53,000, the best of the year.

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