Weekend pops with ‘Robot’

Smith's latest expected to slide into top spot

Will Smith returns this weekend to a genre that built his career, the summer sci-fi blockbuster, in 20th Century Fox’s “I, Robot,” while Hilary Duff looks to draw her following of teens and young femmes back to the multiplexes for Warner Bros.’ “A Cinderella Story.”

“I, Robot,” which has a production budget north of $100 million and bows in 3,420 theaters, should win the weekend handily even though Smith’s opening records are expected to remain intact. His biggest bow is “Men in Black II,” which had a three-day opening of $52.1 million during the July 4th frame in 2002.

“Spider-Man 2” will continue to be a major factor in the marketplace in its third weekend. A 50% drop from last weekend would give it a perf around $22 million, which should be good enough for second place. Midweeks have been strong for the pic, topping $5 million Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Cume stands at $272.6 million through its first 15 days, about even with the $271.5 million “Shrek 2” had made in its first 15 earlier this year.

Smith is returning to what has been fertile ground. Fox distrib prexy Bruce Snyder noted, “Boy, he’s owned July in the past.” In addition to “Men in Black 2,” his past pics to bow in July include “Bad Boys II,” which opened with $46.5 million during the same weekend in 2003.

Three other pics opening over the July 4th holiday weekend were 1999’s “Wild Wild West” ($27.7 million opening), 1997’s “Men in Black” ($51.1 million) and 1996’s “Independence Day” ($50.2 million).

Industry estimates on “I, Robot” are on the lower end of that spectrum, in the high 30s to mid-40s.

“Cinderella Story,” opening in 2,425 locations, is Duff’s first chance to topline a non-Lizzie McGuire movie. That pic, which was released in May of last year, opened with $17.3 million and went on to cume $42.7 million. She was also in the holiday hit “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

Warners distrib prexy Dan Fellman said “Cinderella” is squarely aimed at Duff’s fans, girls 8 and up. But he also noted that it should play well with older teens and, of course, their moms. “I think we’re well positioned in the marketplace. The picture has been screening very well. I’m looking forward to a good weekend.”

After several femme-powered hits in spring, including “Mean Girls” and “13 Going on 30,” the summer crop of pics aimed at women has not fared as well. “New York Minute,” which was meant for the younger crowd, has cumed $14 million, while “Raising Helen,” which had a bit older target demo, has made $36 million. “Sleepover” opened last weekend with $4.2 million.

In limited releases, Focus Features bowed “The Door in the Floor,” helmer Tod Williams’ adaptation of the John Irving novel “A Widow for One Year.” Pic, which stars Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger, opened Wednesday on 47 screens.

Fine Line will bow drug-smuggling drama “Maria Full of Grace” on seven screens in Gotham and L.A. Also, Sony Pictures Classics has a bicoastal bow for gay-Muslim comedy “Touch of Pink” and Chinese romancer “Zhou Yu’s Train.”

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