WB's kidpic battles 'Couples,' 'Citizen'

Warner Bros. is getting in touch with its wild side with Spike Jonze’s “Where the Wild Things Are” entering the frame at 3,735 locations. The live-action fantasy stars newcomer Max Records as the boy who runs away to a realm populated by talking beasts.

Universal hopes auds may still feel a little punch-drunk love for last week’s top earner “Couples Retreat” in its soph sesh at 3,009 playdates. Last week’s box office event “Paranormal Activity,” with $7.9 million at 160 playdates, expands to 800 after an online poll allowed users to vote to bring the pic to their city. Budgeted at $11,000, Paramount’s horror pic has cumed a staggering $12.5 million as it enters its fourth frame.

Overture’s action pic “Law Abiding Citizen,” starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, opens wide this weekend at 2,889. Butler’s two other pics this year, Lionsgate’s “Gamer” and Sony’s “The Ugly Truth,” have cumed domestically $20.5 million and $88.9 million, respectively.

Sony’s PG-13-rated horror-thriller “The Stepfather” bows at 2,734, and could lure scare-loving teen girls with “Gossip Girl’s” Penn Badgley co-starring in the remake.

But the pic will face competition from strong word-of-mouth for “Paranormal.” Meanwhile, Sony has two strong holdovers in “Zombieland” and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” totaling $51.9 million and $99.5 million, respectively. “Zombieland” dropped 40% last weekend in its soph sesh, while “Cloudy” continued to perform well with younger auds in its fourth frame, declining only 27%.

Studio expects both pics to lose traction in a competitive frame as “Zombieland” goes head-to-head with another R-rated pic, “Citizen,” while younger auds may opt a different kiddie lit adaptation with “Wild Things” instead of “Cloudy.”

Based on Maurice Sendak’s classic picturebook, “Wild Things” began production in 2006, weathering creative differences between Jonze and the studio along the way. Jonze’s previous pics have been Grammercy’s “Being John Malkovich” ($46.4 million) and Sony’s “Adaptation” ($32 million).

Warner expects PG-rated “Wild Things,” co-produced by Legendary Pictures, to perform in the mid-20s, with an added boost from 145 Imax screens. Studio said tracking is strong among those who grew up reading the book, including college-age auds and young adults, as well kids and teens.

“Couples” should perform well in its soph sesh after breezing through as last week’s frame topper with $34.3 million. Pic put up strong mid-week numbers, earning $4 million Monday, dropping to $2.6 million Tuesday and $2.3 million Wednesday.

“Couples” is the only comedy in the marketplace but will likely decline 45%-50% with so many fresh titles.

Disney’s 3D toon re-release “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2” grossed $7.8 million in its second frame, enough to persuade the Mouse to extend the toons’ slated two-week run until Nov. 2.

Prior to its wider expansion on Nov. 2, Sony Pictures Classics is adding Chicago, San Francisco and Boston markets for Brit pic “An Education” after last weekend’s strong $159,017 on just four screens.

Focus continues a slow rollout for “A Serious Man” in its third frame, adding 54 engagements in markets including Atlanta, Denver, Detroit and Houston. The Coen brothers’ latest earned $459,318 at 21 playdates last weekend with a per-screen average of $21, 872.

With period drama “Bright Star” totaling $2.8 million as it enters its fifth frame, Apparition bows its second release, action-comedy “Black Dynamite” in limited release at 70.

Vivendi will launch its Stateside response to First Look’s “Paris, je t’aime,” which cumed $4.7 million in 2007, with similar portmanteau “New York, I Love You” at 125 engagements.

On the foreign front, Disney/Pixar’s “Up” looks likely to be the top performer for the second straight frame as the Mouse House continues to roll the toon out gradually to coincide with holidays and vacations in individual markets.

“Up” is now the year’s fifth best performer internationally with over $260 million already banked. It should be near the top in its second weekend in the U.K. and launches in Hungary, Italy, Poland and Sweden.

“Where the Wild Things Are” won’t launch outside the United States until an Oct. 30 opening in Italy while “Stepfather” begins hitting major international markets in mid-November.

Universal is launching “Couples Retreat” in Russia, the Ukraine and the U.K. The laffer opened in Australia and New Zealand, where it’s drawn $4 million in its first week.

“The Ugly Truth” will open in Hong Kong and Spain with Sony’s romantic comedy poised to see its international cume top the $89 million domestic total.

Disney’s “G-Force” should generate family coin with launches in France and Germany, which should lift the kidpic’s total foreign gross to somewhere near the $118 million domestic cume.

And Disney’s also launching “Surrogates” in Holland, with about $40 million in foreign grosses so far for the actioner, which has yet to open in about 50% of the world.

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