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‘Black’ primes B.O. fireworks

Sequel's super-wide opening leads 5-day charge

Film distribs are looking for high fives this weekend — high five-day grosses, that is.

Three wide releases unspool today, aiming to make the most of what for many Americans will be an extra-long holiday weekend starting with the Independence Day holiday on Thursday.

Sony’s sci-fi sequel “Men in Black 2” — set to bow on a super-wide 6,000 screens in 3,560 theaters — is easily the most highly anticipated of the bunch. But tracking data also shows decent awareness among prospective patrons of 20th Century Fox’s basketball fantasy “Like Mike,” and Warner Bros. tooner “The Powerpuff Girls Movie” has a built-in constituency thanks to the “Powerpuff” skein on sister cable web Cartoon Network.

The biggest-ever Independence Day-frame bow came in 1996 with Fox’s aptly titled sci-fier “Independence Day.” Ranking second among sesh’s all-time grossers was the original “MIB” with $84.1 million.

Both pics debuted with midnight showings the preceding Tuesday nights of their launch frames, something none of the current crop of openers has going for them. On the other hand, a five-day Independence Day frame is considered particularly lucrative when the July 4 holiday falls on a Thursday — as it does this year.

In the case of “MIB2,” the sequel also enjoys a 5,000-venue advantage over the original. So, it’s considered almost a foregone conclusion that eagerly anticipated pic, again toplined by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, will easily outgross the opening weekend rung up by the first “MIB” — $79.3 million after subtracting the $4.8 million the original earned in midnight grosses.

“It looks big, and we feel good about the prospects,” Sony marketing and distrib boss Jeff Blake said. “But you never know for sure.”

The studio decided against staging midnight showings this time around largely because its huge screen count makes such a move unnecessary, Blake said.

Sony also expects continued strong biz from soph-sesh laffer “Mr. Deeds.” ” ‘Deeds’ should hang in there (with) $20 million or so,” Blake estimated.

Such a showing over five days conceivably could grab the Adam Sandler starrer second place over the weekend. But it’s also possible either “Mike” or “Girls” could stage a solid runner-up showing as well.

Fox had originally intended to open “Mike” in the spring, but bounced the hoop-themed pic — featuring teenage hip-hop artist Lil’ Bow Wow — to the higher-profile summer frame on the basis of strong response to a teaser trailer. Pic, which unspools in 2,410 theaters, could prove a good second-movie choice for many moviegoers over the holiday-lengthened sesh, suggested Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder.

“I’ve got to think that some people will go to more than one movie over that five-day holiday,” Snyder said.

“Powerpuff Girls,” set for 2,290 playdates, reps yet another possible franchise for Warners, which last month unspooled franchise hopeful “Scooby-Doo” to auspicious grosses.

Tracking shows good audience awareness, thanks to the “Girls” TV skein. But tracking surveys also try to measure “definite interest” in individual pics among prospective moviegoers, and that’s notoriously hard to do with kidpics.

Just last weekend, Paramount’s adaptation of Nickelodeon kiddie skein “Hey, Arnold!” opened limply despite strong pre-release tracking data.

On an industrywide basis, the coming weekend compares with a year-ago frame marked over only three days, as July 4, 2001 fell on a Wednesday. Warners’ family laffer “Cats & Dogs” took the sesh with a $21.7 million opening weekend.

Dan Marks, exec VP at box office tracker Nielsen EDI, said an Independence Day-lengthened frame takes on a significance similar to the long Thanksgiving sesh.

“They’re both big, family holidays, where a lot of people are out of work the next day,” Marks said. “And that bodes well for moviegoing.”

Thanksgiving is a bit stronger than even a five-day July 4 sesh, he noted. “But if the weather is bad around the country, watch the box office take off.”

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