New wide openers set for Thanksgiving battle

A handful of films join the Thanksgiving week buffet today, going up against Summit Entertainment’s colossal “New Moon” and other strong holdovers.

Warner Bros.’ new entry “Ninja Assassin” has a key advantage in appealing to males, who aren’t so interested in the “Twilight” series. The R-rated actioner, opening Wednesday in 2,503 runs, was produced by Joel Silver, the Wachowski brothers and Legendary Pictures.

Disney’s John Travolta-Robin Williams topliner “Old Dogs,” Walt Becker’s follow-up to sleeper hit “Wild Hogs,” will look to draw adults as the Mouse hopes it will profit from being the only new comedy. Pic plays in 3,425 theaters.

Twentieth Century Fox expands Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” nationwide into 2,027 theaters after a successful two-week limited run targeting the arthouse crowd. Studio now hopes to get the family aud, small and big badgers alike, to the animated pic.

Also going after kids, Disney opens traditionally animated “The Princess and the Frog” today in a two-week exclusive run before going wide. It plays at the theater on the Disney lot in Burbank and at Clearview Cinemas’ Ziegfeld Theater in New York.

On the specialty side, the Weinstein Co. opens John Hillcoat’s “The Road,” based on Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic tome about a father and son. Film, starring Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce, opens in 88 theaters today, expanding to a total of 111 on Friday.

Screen Media Films opens Robin Wright Penn drama “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” written and directed by Rebecca Miller, in 12 theaters.

The new nationwide players will have a difficult time overtaking “New Moon,” which opened to a phenomenal $142.8 million over the weekend, the third best debut of all time at the domestic B.O. On Monday, the sequel grossed $10.5 million for a cume of $153.3 million. That means that “New Moon” should surpass the entire gross of the original “Twilight” ($192 million) by this weekend at the latest.

“Twilight” dropped 62% in its second frame a year ago.

Overseas, “New Moon” is doing big business as well, grossing nearly $133 million through Sunday. This weekend, it expands into a number of territories, including Japan and Germany.

Warners’ Sandra Bullock sports drama “The Blind Side,” based on the real-life story of Baltimore Ravens player Michael Oher, should continue to score box office touchdowns in its second weekend of play at the domestic B.O. Film, fueled by older women, opened to a stronger-than-expected $34.1 million and grossed $3.7 million Monday for a cume of $37.8 million.

While “Blind Side” could get more men, there is plenty of room at the box office for a male-driven title like “Ninja Assassin.”

“Ninja” was co-financed by Joel Silver’s Dark Castle label, Legendary and Warners. Pic cost roughly $40 million to produce.

Film, directed by Wachowskis protege James McTeigue (“V for Vendetta”), is considered a “hard R” because of the level of violence. Pic is tracking best among males age 17-35, including among Latinos and African-Americans.

“Old Dogs” is tracking best among women over 25, although it’s drawing interest among older males. Tracking for the comedy is softish, but tracking has been wrong on a number of films lately. “Old Dogs” is not a sequel to “Wild Hogs,” also a Disney pic. That comedy grossed $168.3 million domestically.

The trick for “Mr. Fox,” Anderson’s first animated project, will be to get families to show the same enthusiasm that arthouse crowds have. George Clooney and Meryl Streep lead the voice cast.

“Mr. Fox” had a strong second frame, grossing $203,512 for a per-location average of $50,878 and cume of $584,705. Pic is one of the best reviewed of the year on RottenTomatoes.com with a 95% fresh rating.

Film cost $30 million-$40 million. Fox Searchlight is consulting on marketing, but it is a big Fox movie, shepherded by Fox Animation topper Vanessa Morrison.

Disney appears to be sitting pretty with “Princess and the Frog,” which has already sold out every show at the theater on the Burbank lot. Tickets are $50, $30 and $20 for a group. The most expensive ticket allows moviegoers access to a separate event with animators practicing their craft, real-life Disney princesses, games and more.

Mouse House is a pro at using exclusive engagements to launch a film, but usually hosts such events at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, where the studio’s “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” is currently the headliner.

As with “New Moon,” it’s normal practice for the biggest Thanksgiving title to open the weekend before the holiday, or even two weekends before, giving it plenty of playtime.

Overseas, “New Moon” and Sony’s Roland Emmerich disaster pic “2012” should continue to dominate.

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