This weekend the 'calm before the storm'

Studios are calling this weekend at the domestic B.O. the calm before the storm, with two R-rated pics opening in wide release: Warner buddy comedy “Cop Out” and Overture horror pic “The Crazies.”

Launches come a week before Disney rolls out its much-anticipated 3D “Alice in Wonderland,” which is expected to do boffo business as it bows day-and-date in several key territories overseas.

Paramount’s reigning champ, “Shutter Island,” should hold well after an impressive opening last weekend, earning $41 million — the biggest bow for both director Martin Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio.

At the specialty B.O., Sony Pictures Classics will launch Oscar-nommed “A Prophet” in limited release with hopes of gaining traction before the Oscar telecast March 7. French-language prison drama, directed by Jacques Audiard, debuts at nine locations in New York and L.A.

“Cop Out,” launching on 3,150 screens, stars Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan as police officers who investigate the case of Willis’ stolen baseball card.

Directed by fanboy auteur Kevin Smith, “Cop Out” is co-scripted by Mark and Robb Cullen and reps the first film Smith has helmed but didn’t write. Originally titled “A Couple of Dicks,” Smith reportedly allowed the change after taking flak for “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” That film opened to $10.1 million at 2,735 playdates in 2008.

Tracking for “Cop Out” is strongest among males, but weaker for femmes.

“The Crazies,” about small-town residents contaminated by a toxic water supply, opens at 2,477 engagements and should also play best among male auds. Overture said it hopes positive early reviews for the film can help it cross over to other demos.

Pic is co-financed by Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi.

“Shutter” has seen strong midweek figures, having cumed $50.2 million as of Wednesday, with Par adding 12 engagements in its soph sesh for a total of 3,003 playdates. Scorsese’s thriller — about U.S. marshals, played by DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, who investigate the case of a missing woman at a remote insane asylum — overpowered a host of holdovers in its opening weekend. Pic beat out Warner’s “Valentine’s Day” and 20th Century Fox’s “Avatar.”

“Valentine’s Day” saw a steep drop of 70% in its soph sesh last weekend after becoming the highest-grossing opener during a Presidents Day Weekend, with $63.1 million. Pic has cumed $89.9 million.

Entering its 11th weekend, “Avatar” should pass $700 million, having already cumed $691.7 million. With “Alice” set to occupy most 3D screens in the coming weeks, pic should continue to play well on 2D screens as it holds steady during midweek.

Fox’s other holdover, kid-targeted “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” will continue to benefit as the frame’s top family title until the “Alice” onslaught. “Percy” earned $15.3 million in its soph sesh, down 51% for a cume of $60.7 million.

In addition to “A Prophet,” Sony Classics will expand today another Oscar hopeful, “The Last Station,” more than doubling the theater count for a total 352 locations. Starring nominees Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer, “Station” has cumed $2.2 million since its limited release on Dec. 4.

Fox Searchlight will expand “Crazy Heart” to 1,148 screens in its 11th frame as the distrib continues its steady awards push. Pic earned $3 million last weekend and has reached a total $22.3 million.

Summit’s Roman Polanski-

directed thriller “The Ghost Writer” enters its soph sesh today, expanding to 43 after opening with $183,009 at four locations for a per-screen average of $45,752.

Overseas, Warner plans a day-and-date release of “Cop Out” in markets including Austria, Germany and New Zealand.

Still, “Avatar” continues to soar above new entries in most key territories, grossing $48.5 million last weekend to claim the top spot. International cume for “Avatar” totaled $1.78 billion.

“Shutter Island” debuted last weekend in Spain and Australia, earning healthy returns in both territories. In Spain, pic opened with $3.4 million at 406 screens, followed by Australia with $2.5 million at 213. “Shutter” grossed an overall $9.1 million with the pic poised to launch in France and Germany this weekend.

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