‘Witch Mountain’ faces ‘Watchmen’

'Last House' also opening wide on Friday

The race is on at the weekend box office as Disney family adventure “Race to Witch Mountain” takes on holdover “Watchmen.”

“Witch Mountain,” toplining Dwayne Johnson, opens today at the domestic box office in 3,187 runs.

Rogue Pictures/Universal’s horrorfest “The Last House on the Left” also enters the scene and could take men away from “Watchmen.” That’s one reason no one’s confident enough to say which of the trio of films will win the sesh.

The R-rated “Last House on the Left” opens in 2,401 theaters.

The weekend’s other new release is raunchy comedy “Miss March,” a Fox Atomic title being distributed by big Fox. Pic opens in 1,752.

Warner Bros.’ “Watchmen” heads into its second weekend with a domestic gross of $65.3 million through Wednesday. Pic opened to $55.2 million domestically and north of $26 million internationally.

Debut was less than expected, so B.O. legs are crucial if the film is to be eventually classified as a hit.

Actioners like “Watchmen” often drop more steeply in their soph sesh than pics in other genres. Anything beyond 60% will be considered high.

One thing “Watchmen” has in its favor is its 124 Imax runs. They could help stave off a bigger drop.

Box office observers say that “Race to Witch Mountain” and “Watchmen” could both end up in the low $20 million range. “Last House on the Left” is expected to come in below that, but no one’s ruling out the possibility that the horror title could overperform.

“Race to Witch Mountain,” a reimagining of the 1970s family franchise, reunites Johnson and director Andy Fickman in their first pairing since sleeper hit “The Game Plan.” That film, also a Disney title, opened to $23 million in September 2007 on its way to cuming $90.6 million domestically.

“Witch Mountain,” because of its action and special effects, will play older than “Game Plan” while still drawing the kids.

One big advantage for “Witch Mountain” is its PG rating. Family-friendly films are few and far between at this time of year, helping explain why Sony’s PG-rated comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” has turned into a blockbuster, grossing $134.4 million since opening in mid-January.

Focus Features’ 3-D kidpic “Coraline” also has come in well ahead of expectations, grossing $66.3 million to date. Both “Mall Cop” and “Coraline” remain on the top 10 chart.

The specialty box office continues its post-Oscar slowdown. New entries braving the market include “Edge of Life,” which Capitol Films opens in 11 theaters; IDP/Samuel Goldwyn’s docu “Brothers at War,” which opens in seven theaters; and Overture’s 2008 Sundance pickup “Sunshine Cleaning,” which goes out in four runs in New York and L.A.

On the foreign front, “Watchmen” will probably lead the list for the second straight weekend, although both “Slumdog Millionaire” and Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” are proving to be formidable challenges.

Also, Sony makes its first major foreign push with “Mall Cop,” while Fox’s “Marley and Me” continues it foreign expansion, opening in Russia and the U.K. “Marley and Me” grossed north of $8 million last weekend, putting it high up on the international box office chart.

“Watchmen” will expand into Greece and Sweden.

Eastwood’s “Gran Torino,” which has shown decent traction with $33 million from only 17 markets, goes into Italy this weekend.

Disney is expanding “Confessions of a Shopaholic” into Australia and German-speaking Europe and going day-and-date with “Witch Mountain” in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

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