Cameron epic ranks behind helmer's 'Titanic'

Three wide releases enter the weekend’s domestic B.O., led by Warner Bros.’ Katherine Heigl-Josh Duhamel starrer “Life as We Know It” at 3,150 engagements.

Heigl’s latest romantic comedy should compete with Disney’s equine biopic “Secretariat,” opening at 3,072 locations, for older female auds. Wes Craven’s first 3D horror pic, “My Soul to Take,” from Rogue Pictures and Relativity Media, launches at 2,412, 75% of which will be in 3D.

The frame’s new trio will face stiff competish from “The Social Network,” which Sony hopes will ride strong midweek perfs through the weekend. Most insiders expect the film to drop 30%-40%, which could give “Social Network” enough steam to top the charts after its $22.4 million opening last weekend.

With adult-driven fare fueling the box office of late, Focus Features launches today a counterprogramming bid with Zach Galifianakis topliner “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” at 742 locations in the top 50 U.S. markets. Focus said positive early reactions from core moviegoers aged 18-24 spurred the aggressive rollout.

Also on the specialty front, “Stone,” with Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, debuts today at six locations in New York and L.A. Title is the last to be released under the Overture banner.

Overseas auds continue to embrace holdover titles expanding to major markets, such as “Despicable Me” and “Eat Pray Love”; both saw resilient results last weekend, with $12.5 million and $13.4 million, respectively. German auds are the first to join Sony’s “Social Network” this weekend as pic expands internationally over the next few weeks.

The weekend’s new entries will try their hand first with U.S. auds before expanding overseas.

“Social Network” skewed slightly more toward auds over 35 during its debut, which could bode well for the film given that that demo typically shies away from opening weekend.

Sony also said the film should gain steam as word of mouth extends beyond the coasts. Last weekend, the film earned most of its coin from New York and L.A., with 20% of its weekend gross coming from California. “Social Network” has grossed $28.7 million domestically.

Warner said it expects “Life” to land in the mid- to high teens, boosted by a slight uptick in tracking late Wednesday. The studio sneaked the film last Saturday at some 800 locations, with 65% turnout, hoping to develop word of mouth in anticipation of a wide release.

Rated PG-13, “Life” centers on two singles with a mutual dislike who are listed as joint guardians of their friends’ baby. Heigl most recently teamed with Ashton Kutcher in Lionsgate’s “Killers.” That pic debuted June 4 with $15.8 million domestically.

Disney’s “Secretariat,” toplining Diane Lane and John Malkovich, should appeal mostly to families and older auds, with young girls also added to the mix. Pic should play tops in the Midwest, given its heartwarming tone, but may get lost in the shuffle in more urban multiplexes.

Disney had hoped “Secretariat” would reap coin similar to Warner’s “The Blind Side,” targeting the film to a similar faith-based aud. Both pics feature a strong-willed female lead in a sports-themed story. Tracking for “Secretariat,” however, suggests a more modest take. “The Blind Side” opened with $34.1 million and went on to gross a boffo $256 million.

Meanwhile, younger crowds should turn out for “My Soul to Take,” which Universal is distribbing for Rogue and Relativity Media. However, last weekend’s horror openers — “Case 39″ and “Let Me In” — saw disappointing debuts.

U said it hopes Craven brings credibility to the pic with its core fanbase. The film’s marketing materials have highlighted his involvement; “Soul” marks the first writing credit for Craven in 16 years.

Budgeted at about $25 million, pic tells the story of a serial killer who swore to return to kill seven children born the night he died. Max Thieriot, Zena Grey and Denzel Whitaker star.

While auds may opt for fresher “Soul,” the film could face competish from “Case 39″ and “Let Me In.” The former has grossed $6.6 million through Wednesday, “Let Me In” $6.4 million.

Other holdovers that have performed well in repeat frames are adult-driven titles “The Town,” from Warner Bros., and 20th Century Fox’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” In its third frame, “The Town” dropped just 38% for a weekend gross of $9.7 million, while “Wall Street” fell a respectable 47%, with $10 million in its soph sesh. “The Town” has cumed a hearty $66.6 million; “Wall Street,” $38.3 million.

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