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Late summer herd ranges to theaters

Oater faces off against slasher in B.O. showdown

HOLLYWOOD — Distribs will prod a herd of late-summer wide releases into movie theaters this weekend, including Kevin Costner-helmed Western “Open Range” from Disney.

Mouse sees prospects for its oater over the longer haul, so it’s likely the weekend will be won not by a pic with dueling cowboys but one hyping a showdown of slashers. New Line’s “Freddy vs. Jason,” pairing characters from “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th” horror franchises, should top box office rankings with $20 million or more in weekend grosses, according to pre-release tracking data.

By contrast, “Open Range” and MGM’s bowing femme-magnet “Uptown Girls” will do well to make it into the teen millions. And Gaylord Entertainment’s Warner Bros.-distribbed “Grind,” a skateboard actioner, will try to grind out a bit of biz from the young-male segment; it’s likely to see only single-digit millions.

Screen wars

“Freddy” is ready for 3,014 theaters, while “Range” lassoes 2,075 locations, “Girls” gets 2,495 playdates and “Grind” cranks out 2,253 engagements. The East Coast blackout Thursday wasn’t expected to significantly affect the distribution of film prints, most of which were at their destinations before the power outage hit.

Miramax had planned to open laffer “Shaolin Soccer” wide this weekend, but the title now has been bounced to Sept. 5 and reduced to a limited launch in L.A., Gotham and San Francisco.

“Aug. 15 had become a very crowded date,” Miramax distribution prexy Mike Rudnitsky said.

Pics seeing limited bows this weekend include IDP drama “Passionada” (74 theaters) and Miramax’s re-release of George Clooney’s quirky comedy “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” set initially for L.A. and Gotham exclus. Also unspooling are Fine Line drama “American Splendor” — headed for a half-dozen venues in Gotham, L.A. and Cleveland — and Pathfinder laffer “Loco Love,” wooing L.A. and Miami in seven arthouses.

Sony’s cop actioner “S.W.A.T.,” which opened to $37.1 million last weekend, could land somewhere in the higher teens in its sophomore outing and appears to be the frame’s likely No. 2 finisher.

Femme round

Disney’s “Freaky Friday,” which also debuted last weekend (with $22.2 million), will overlap in the marketplace with “Uptown Girls” as a femme-oriented laffer; it will be interesting to see which pic finishes higher this weekend.

Mouse distribution boss Chuck Viane figures “Range” will open solidly and play well if it can woo moviegoers of the sort who went to see “Seabiscuit” in recent weeks. Universal’s racehorse drama has grossed more than $70 million since unspooling July 25.

“We believe August — and especially the middle of August — is a great time to launch adult-oriented films,” Viane said. “That audience is really available then, and there’s a bonus that hits in your third weekend because of the (Labor Day) holiday weekend.

“If you’ve got the goods, you can really score,” he said. “With ‘Seabiscuit’ in the second-half of its life, the adult audience is looking for a second choice.”

Multiple improvement?

New Line distribution topper David Tuckerman said “Freddy vs. Jason” could outperform the most recent installments of either of the aging horror franchises that spawned the pic.

(Jason is a character from the “Friday the 13th” film franchise. The last installment of the series, last year’s “Jason X,” opened at $6.6 million, and grossed a total of $12.6 million domestically.)

“Tracking-wise, it looks very positive,” Tuckerman said. “The fans of these characters love having them both in the movie together.”

“Girls” is expected to do best with younger femmes, with older women the second-best demo in pre-release tracking.

“It’s a good film that appeals mostly to females, who seem to really like it a lot,” Lion distribution head Erik Lomis said. “So we hope it gets out there and hangs in for a while.”

By contrast, “Grind” will key mostly on younger male interest.

“We’re trying to take advantage of the widespread interest in skateboarding across America,” Warners distribution prexy Dan Fellman said.