Will audiences ‘Pass’ on box office entries?

'Hall Pass' takes on 'Drive Angry' Oscar weekend

The Farrelly brothers’ latest laffer “Hall Pass” will battle Nicolas Cage 3D action vehicle “Drive Angry” at the weekend’s box office while Oscar nominees look to scoop some last-minute interest.

Both New Line’s “Hall Pass” and Summit’s “Drive Angry” are R-rated and looking to attract auds 17-34. According to most observers, “Hall Pass,” which Warner Bros. bows at 2,950 locations, has the upper hand with faithful male Farrelly fans showing interest.

But “Drive Angry,” opening at 2,290 North American engagements, should see a bump from higher-priced 3D tix; only 67 of the pic’s weekend playdates are not in 3D.

Cage starrer’s 3D hike, however, is unlikely to give it a big enough boost with a clutch of holdovers also vying for attention, including Disney’s 3D toon “Gnomeo and Juliet” and Warners’ Liam Neeson actioner “Unknown.” Those films have ranked tops during midweeks, which should translate nicely through the weekend.

Sunday’s Oscarcast will most likely distract some moviegoers over 25, but this year’s Oscar-nommed titles, led by the Weinstein Co.’s “The King’s Speech,” could see an uptick among auds catching last-minute contenders. That should bode well for Roadside Attractions, which Saturday re-releases pic nominee “Winter’s Bone” at 135 locations. “Winter’s Bone” first launched theatrically on June 11, with a Stateside cume of $6.4 million. Pic hit DVD on Oct. 26.

Last weekend, “The King’s Speech” dropped just 10% in its 13th frame and has cumed more than $200 million worldwide. TWC plans to add 300 runs for the film today, lifting its total screen count to 2,386.

Fox Searchlight’s Oscar contender “Black Swan” also has played well after launching limited Dec. 3, with a global tally north of $200 million, though Searchlight is reeling back slightly on “Black Swan,” with a print count of 617 from 656 last weekend.

“Black Swan” and “The King’s Speech” dominated the overseas market last weekend, though expansions for titles like Disney-DreamWorks’ “I Am Number Four” and Paramount’s “True Grit” will provide competish.

Despite holdovers drawing a thick slice of domestic B.O. coin, most pundits expect Warners’ “Hall Pass” to rule the roost, commandeering most enthusiasm among younger males. Even guys under 17 are showing strong interest, but the pic’s restrictive rating will inhibit those attending without parents.

“Hall Pass,” directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, stars Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis as best friends whose wives start having affairs of their own after one of them first allows her husband a dalliance. Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate co-star.

With a low-30s pricetag, “Hall Pass” doesn’t rep a major risk for the studio, especially if the pic lands near its expected $15 million-$17 million range for the weekend.

“Drive Angry,” which stars Cage as a father who seeks revenge on his family’s murderers, is from Nu Image/Millennium Films, with Summit releasing in the U.S. Pic was budgeted at $53 million-$56 million. Pre-weekend tracking suggests the film should bow near $10 million at the high end as it competes with “Hall Pass” for male interest.

Warners’ soph title “Unknown” will look to broaden its demo base this weekend, hoping to attract younger auds. Last weekend, the film skewed overwhelmingly toward adults, with 54% of auds over 50.

Neeson’s previous action vehicle “Taken” dropped just 17% during its second sesh in early February 2009, which could be telling for “Unknown” this weekend with a similar aud. “Unknown” has stayed on top throughout the week; cume is $28.9 million.

Disney’s “Gnomeo and Juliet,” with nearly $60 million domestically as of Wednesday, has dominated the family market since its release on Feb. 11. Paramount launches today its director’s cut version of “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” with 40 minutes of additional footage. Re-launch will play for a one-week exclusive run; pic has cumed $52.9 million.

Other repeat titles looking for holdover play include DreamWorks’ “I Am Number Four” and Sony’s “Just Go With It.” “Four” got off to a sluggish start last weekend, with totals to date at $25.5 million, while “Just Go With It” has held nicely — typical for Adam Sandler pics — with Stateside cume just shy of $67 million.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics opens Cannes Grand Prix winner “Of Gods and Men” at 33 locations in New York, L.A., Toronto and Montreal.

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