'Fighter' bows in limited release

After last weekend’s soft B.O., bizzers are looking to this weekend’s pair of wide entries, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and “The Tourist,” to kickstart a full bag of holiday gifts.

Twentieth Century Fox takes over for Disney with “Dawn Treader,” the third “Narnia” installment from Walden Media and its first 3D treatment. The film launches at 3,555 locations, of which 1,989 will be 3D-equipped, while Sony’s “The Tourist,” toplining Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, bows at 2,756 domestic engagements.

Both pics launch day-and-date overseas this weekend, though “The Tourist” is set to go limited in mostly smaller markets. Fox is debuting “Dawn Treader” in 59 international territories, including Australia, France, Russia and the U.K., where “The Tourist” is also set to bow.

Paramount launches Relativity Media’s “The Fighter” at four locations in New York, L.A. and Boston, while Disney’s “The Tempest,” from director Julie Taymor, also starting out small.

After a big debut last weekend with the year’s second-best per-screen average, Fox Searchlight expands “Black Swan” this weekend at 90 locations. The Weinstein Co.’s “The King’s Speech,” which had the year’s best per-screen average, adds 13 U.S. engagements.

The comparable frame last year had only one wide release, Warner Bros.’ “Invictus,” which debuted with $8.6 million, though toon holdover “The Princess and the Frog” expanded nationwide that weekend for a chart-topping take of $24.2 million. Most B.O. observers expect this year’s new entries to outstrip 2009′s top players.

“Dawn Treader” will see a boost from higher 3D ticket prices, but some predict families might prefer the 2D format. Family pics have struggled to sell more 3D ducats than 2D as parents likely aren’t willing to spend extra coin for the whole family. And with two other family-driven 3D titles already in the market (“Tangled,” “Megamind”), Fox had to compromise on its 3D screen count.

The “Narnia” franchise’s second installment, “Prince Caspian,” debuted with $10 million less than “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which scored $65 million during its domestic debut in 2005. According to pre-weekend tracking, the “Dawn Treader” opening should be down further.

Fox acquired the “Narnia” franchise after 2008′s “Prince Caspian” fell short of its predecessor’s $745 million worldwide haul. And while “Prince Caspian” earned $415 million globally, the pic still cost Disney an estimated $220 million, without factoring in marketing costs. Fox cut the budget for “Dawn Treader” to $145 million.

The series’ third offering, directed by Michael Apted, follows the Pevensie family’s younger children, Lucy and Edmond, as they return to Narnia and travel across the sea on the film’s title ship.

Adult-skewing “The Tourist,” which was fully financed by GK Films, is expected to debut behind “Dawn Treader.” Stars Jolie and Depp, as well as the film’s international locations, should help draw both men and women over 25.

Sony dated the film earlier this summer, claiming it wanted to aim the film for holiday playtime. Like “Dawn Treader,” “The Tourist” likely will see bigger grosses internationally.

“The Tourist” will fight for older auds with “The Fighter” in larger markets. In September, Par scaled back the pic’s wide release on Dec. 10 with plans to go the following weekend. Par looks to gain from the film’s traction on the awards front to build word of mouth.

Among the frame’s top holdovers, Disney’s 3D toon “Tangled” will compete for family auds and 3D screens with “Dawn Treader.” Last weekend, “Tangled” dropped 56%, with $21.6 million in its second frame. The toon’s take was enough to topple Warner Bros.’ juggernaut “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” which earned $17 million in its third week.

Domestic totals for “Tangled” crossed the $100 million benchmark Wednesday, while “Hallows” has cumed nearly $250 million so far.

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