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‘Salt’ shakes up box office

Angelina Jolie-starrer enters box office with 'Ramona'

Sony finds out if “Salt” is worth it to moviegoers this weekend, as the Angelina Jolie action thriller enters the frame at 3,612 locations. Also debuting wide, 20th Century Fox’s kidlit adaptation “Ramona and Beezus” opens at 2,719.

Auds still may choose to solve another mystery, Warner Bros.’ dream-themed “Inception,” entering its second second outing. Last weekend, “Inception” bowed to an impressive $62.8 million, so catch-up filmgoers could help the pic share overall B.O. with the lighter-themed openers.

Warner Bros. continues its overseas expansion of “Inception” this weekend, adding 29 markets including Australia, France, Japan and Mexico. Despite the summer’s post-World Cup clutter, the pic will roll out in some 50 territories through Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, Sony has decided to take the long road internationally with “Salt.” Pic launches day-and-date with the U.S. in Southeast Asia, where action pics typically overperform, but will wait before expanding wide until late summer and early fall.

Expanding Stateside, Focus Features adds 163 locations to its rollout of “The Kids Are All Right.” In its third week of release, “Kids” has cumed a healthy $2.2 million, widening to 201 locations today.

Originally pegged as a vehicle for Tom Cruise, “Salt” underwent a gender re-assignment after Jolie signed on to the project.

With action pics like “Wanted” and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” to her name, “Salt” fits nicely into Jolie’s wheelhouse. In 2008, “Wanted” opened to $50.9 million for a domestic cume of $134.5 million, while “Lara Croft” debuted with $47.7 million in 2001, totaling $131.2 million.

Directed by Phillip Noyce, who’s also no stranger to political thrillers (“Catch a Fire,” “The Quiet American”), “Salt” tells the story of a CIA officer accused of being a Russian spy. Sony mounted a character-driven marketing campaign that focused on Jolie as the pic’s title character, asking potential auds, “Who is Salt?” Jolie, along with Noyce and co-star Liev Schreiber, made an appearance at Comic-Con Thursday to promote the film.

Sony estimated the pic’s budget at approximately $100 million and expects it to attract both men and women.

Fox’s “Ramona and Beezus,” based on the classic children’s books by Beverly Cleary, should play best among young girls, as well as older femmes and families who were fans of the books.

Like the pic’s potential girl-powered aud, “Ramona” was championed by a roster of femme filmmakers, including helmer Elizabeth Allen, producers Denise Di Novi and Alison Greenspan, as well as thesps Joey King and Selena Gomez. Keying off the popularity of Disney Channel star Gomez, “Ramona” could provide counterprogramming for the younger set.

“Inception” has cumed $91.6 million to date domestically, boosted by strong midweek figures that could translate through the weekend.

Also entering its soph sesh is Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” which saw a less-than-magical $17.6 million debut. Last weekend, “Apprentice” launched Wednesday to a middling $3.9 million but showed some resilience the following day, with $3.2 million. Pic’s overall domestic totals stand at a moderate $30.1 million as of July 21.

In limited release, IFC launches Todd Solondz’s “Life During Wartime,” starring Allison Janney and Ciaran Hinds, at one location in New York. IFC sneaked “Life” earlier this week at the Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles.

Sony Pictures Classics debuts its re-issue of the 1992 Tilda Swinton-starrer “Orlando,” helmed by Sally Potter. Sony Classics planned the re-launch to follow Potter’s retrospective event held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Potter and Swinton both attended a screening of the pic on July 7.

“It’s a film that’s been an evergreen for Sony Pictures Classics,” said SPC exec Michael Barker. “We thought it made sense to give it new life theatrically.”

Disney continues its international rollout of 3D toon “Toy Story 3” in Spain and the U.K. Last weekend, the toon grossed $32.9 million, lifting its cume to a standout $269.2 million internationally. “Toy Story 3,” along with Paramount’s “Shrek Forever After” ($297.9 million), have expanded to major European markets during the past weeks to benefit from tykes on summer vacation.

Meanwhile, both toons have added to mid-summer congestion on the foreign front, causing studios to hold pics so as not to compete with top holdover titles.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Tom Cruise-starrer “Knight and Day,” which bowed Stateside on June 23, expands to an additional 11 markets this weekend, including German-speaking Europe. Last weekend, Fox added 19 territories for a take of $19.6 million. “Knight” has cumed $64.8 million through July 19 in a total 49 territories.

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