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Crowded slate of wide openers at b.o.

Box office observers not expecting much of a rebound

After a subdued Memorial Day weekend, B.O. observers aren’t expecting much of a rebound this weekend, as a crowded slate of wide openers with modest expectations enters the frame.

Twentieth Century Fox’s family-friendly “Marmaduke” leads the pack at 3,213 playdates, followed by Lionsgate’s romantic comedy “Killers” at 2,859 locations. A pair of guy-centric pics round out the slate, including Universal’s R-rated laffer “Get Him to the Greek” at 2,696 and sci-fi scarer “Splice,” which Warner Bros. will distribute at 2,450 engagements.

Still, the frame’s new entries may fall victim to Paramount and DreamWorks Animation’s 3D toon “Shrek Forever After.” Last weekend, the toon dropped just 39%, comparing its three-day total of $43.3 million to the toon’s $70.8 million opening take. “Shrek” could maintain a significant hold as it enters its third frame.

The only day and date opener overseas is “Marmaduke,” which bows in 13 markets, led by Brazil and Russia. Instead, overseas auds will get a first look at U.S. titles such as Warner Bros. “Sex and the City 2,” which expands today in markets like Australia, France and Japan.

“Sex 2,” along with last weekend’s other wide opener, Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” will look to hold well after a less-than-stellar holiday debut.

In limited release, Magnolia’s Neil Jordan-directed “Ondine” bows at five U.S. locations, while Newmarket expands historic epic “Agora” to four engagements in New York and L.A.

Among the frame’s nationwide debuts, most studios expect auds to be spread out across the four wide releases, with estimates for each ranging in the low- to mid-teens.

With generally positive reviews, U’s male-driven comedy “Get Him to the Greek” may fare best, given the popularity of stars Jonah Hill and Russell Brand. Both thesps were featured in 2008’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which opened with $17.7 million. “Marshall” writer-director Nicholas Stoller returns to helm the R-rated spinoff, with Judd Apatow producing.

“Greek” has garnered enthusiastic reactions from promo efforts such as screenings on college campuses nationwide. Young men are also the target aud of Warner’s horror-thriller “Splice,” which producer Joel Silver acquired at Sundance.

Futuristic “Splice” toplines Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as scientists who combine human and animal DNA, creating a hybrid killer.

The gender divide may splice as femmes are expected to turn out for Lionsgate’s “Killers,” starring Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher. Directed by Robert Luketic, “Killers” tells the story of a vacationing woman who unknowingly marries an undercover assassin.

Lionsgate decided not to screen the pic for critics, but instead mounted several online initiatives to help build word of mouth, including Kutcher’s Twitter campaign.

Hoping to engage families, Fox launches PG-rated “Marmaduke,” featuring Owen Wilson and George Lopez. Wilson voices the famed comic strip Great Dane. Pic, directed by Tom Dey from a script by Vince Di Meglio and Tim Rasmussen, will likely have a tough time gaining traction beyond the tyke crowd.

Warner said it expects healthy midweek figures for “Sex 2” — the film dropped only 41% on Monday — to translate through the weekend. Typically, femme-driven films perform well during the week as women opt to save weekends for family films.

On the international front, “Prince” will face “Sex 2” in holdover frames, with “Marmaduke” added to the mix in limited rollout. Last weekend, “Prince” earned a royal $61 million in 47 territories. The film’s top markets, including Russia, China and France, accounted for 70% of the pic’s weekend take and 55% of the international cume.

“Sex 2” topped the box office in its Wednesday opening in Gaul with $1.16 million, and will hope to benefit from an aggressive marketing push in that territory. The film grossed $27.6 million in its opening weekend overseas on 3,700 screens in 17 markets.

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