Wide openers take aim at diverse auds

Four wide releases entering the domestic B.O. this weekend should appeal to a diverse crowd of moviegoers, with Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures’ adult-driven cop thriller “The Town” opening at the most locations.

But teen comedy “Easy A” from Sony/Screen Gems should provide potent competish along with horror-thriller “Devil,” from Universal, and Lionsgate’s 3D toon “Alpha and Omega.”

The mix of wide entries will face additional challenges from high-profile specialty pics including Fox Searchlight’s Wednesday opener “Never Let Me Go” and social networking docu “Catfish,” which U is launching today through its Rogue banner.

Helmer Mark Romanek’s sci-fi drama “Never Let Me Go,” based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and toplining Carey Mulligan,

Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, bowed mid-week to get a headstart on the crowded frame. Pic earned $24,622 at four U.S. locations for a sturdy per-screen average of $6,155.

Fox Searchlight has shown an affinity for limited Wednesday bows in the past, with its most recent being last year’s December release “Crazy Heart.” Romanek’s 2002 feature debut “One Hour Photo,” also from Fox Searchlight, launched on a Wednesday in August with an opening day per-screen average of $2,921 at seven locations. That pic went on to cume a $31.6 million domestically.

Also in the specialty mix this weekend, Magnolia’s Casey Affleck-helmed faux docu “I’m Still Here,” about Joaquin Phoenix, expands to a considerable 120 locations in its second outing. Last weekend, the docu launched at 19 Stateside engagements, earning $96,658 for a per-screen average of $5,087.

Holdover title “Resident Evil: Afterlife” should continue to dominate on the international front, as Sony adds major markets like Brazil, Germany, Mexico and South Korea. “Afterlife” scored hearty overseas returns last weekend, when it debuted day-and-date in some 35 territories, with $46.2 million.

All four wide openers are set to bow in at least one key foreign market: “The Town” will go in France; “Easy A” in Australia; “Devil” in the U.K.; and “Alpha and Omega” in Russia.

“The Town,” opening at 2,861, marks Ben Affleck’s second feature film as director after the helmer’s “Gone Baby Gone” grossed $20.3 million for Miramax in 2007. Both R-rated pics are set in Boston and tell similar tales of crime and redemption. In his most recent directorial effort, Affleck, who co-wrote the script with Sheldon Turner and Peter Craig, follows a group of Beantown bank robbers. Affleck toplines alongside Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm and Blake Lively.

Pic’s R rating will limit demo breakdowns to mostly adult auds, though according to some insiders, the film gained steam after a successful bow at the Toronto Film Fest.

Sony’s “Easy A” also screened in Toronto last weekend. Pic, about a high-school girl who sullies her reputation after several fake flings, should draw primarily younger femmes, launching at 2,856 locations. Emma Stone toplines, with Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci co-starring as her parents.

The studio has heavily promoted “Easy A” on college campuses and high schools, with more than 300 screenings before the end of summer. Sony also screened the $8 million-budgeted pic for some teenage auds at summer camp.

Like “Easy A,” U’s horror title “Devil” is rated PG-13. “Devil,” which opens at 2,810 engagements, tells the story of a group of people trapped in an elevator, of which one of them is the devil. Toplining Chris Messina, Bojana Novakovic and Matt Craven, “Devil” marks the first offering in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Night Chronicles” series. U and Relativity Media acquired the pic from Media Rights Capital, but was not part of the 20-pic deal U struck with MRC in May.

Most B.O. observers expect all three pics (“The Town,” “Easy A” and “Devil”) to launch near the mid teens.

The frame’s fourth entry, “Alpha and Omega,” could have a hard time getting that far, given that the toon is unlikely to expand beyond its targeted tot and family demos. Toon, which features a voice cast led by Justin Long and Hayden Panettiere, bows at 2,625 locations, of which 1,625 will be 3D-equipped.

“Alpha and Omega” is Lionsgate’s first 3D title since last year’s “My Bloody Valentine.” The toon should benefit as the newest family-friendly pic. Screen Gems’ holdover “Resident Evil: Afterlife” could also hold up well after opening on 2,203 3D screens, with 84% of its opening gross coming from the 3D format. Debuting last weekend with a solid $26.7 million, “Afterlife” enters its soph sesh as the frame’s top Stateside holdover. Pic’s domestic cume has reached $32.2 million as of Wednesday.

Other top holdovers include Sony/Screen Gems’ third horse “Takers,” with a cume of $48.9 million, followed by Focus Features’ George Clooney starrer “The American,” which has grossed $29.6 million domestically. “The American” has performed well during midweek, but could lose adult auds this weekend to “The Town” or similarly targeted specialty pics in larger markets.

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