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Family feud at box office

'Web,' 'Eragon,' 'Pursuit' vie for audiences

A family-pic fracas is brewing this weekend at the multiplexes as Paramount’s reimagined classic “Charlotte’s Web” stacks up against Fox’s fantasy pic “Eragon.”

Both pics are going up against Sony’s Will Smith starrer “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which lands at 2,852 playdates.

“Web” will spin in 3,566 engagements and “Eragon” hits 3,020.

Also of interest will be Par’s unusual rollout of Bill Condon’s “Dreamgirls”: Studio is releasing the film as a “roadshow,” charging $25 a pop for tickets and offering fans at three theaters — in Gotham, Los Angeles and San Francisco — reserved seating and special programs as part of the package.

Scheme has so far resulted in sellouts on Friday night in all three venues. (Saturday is sold out at Gotham’s Ziegfeld as well, and the L.A. venue’s Saturday engagement at the ArcLight was nearly full late Thursday.) Par rolls out the pic in earnest on Christmas.

Holding over will be Mel Gibson’s Disney release “Apocalypto” — last weekend’s surprise No. 1 — which should convert further fans. Helmer’s “The Passion of the Christ” took in $53.2 million in its second frame two years ago.

Sony’s “The Holiday,” meanwhile, will have to try and hang on amid the competish: Pic looked like a No. 2 finisher Sunday but actually slipped a spot when actual receipts were tallied, dropping behind Warner Bros. penguin pic “Happy Feet.”

Warners political adventure “Blood Diamond” got off to a slow start last frame but has been gaining ground during the week and could benefit from Golden Globes nominations. Pic bowed to $8.6 million in its first weekend but surged to $11.2 million by Thursday with slight daily drops in biz.

Smith’s last pic, the Sony romantic comedy “Hitch,” bowed to $43.1 million last year on its way to $179.5 million.

Thesp hasn’t had a pic open below that mark since his 2001 biopic “Ali,” which preemed to $14 million.

Then again, Smith’s pics since “Ali” have either been big-budget actioners, such as “I, Robot” and “Bad Boys II,” or comedies like “Hitch.” “Happyness” sees the thesp taking a purely dramatic, fact-inspired turn as Chris Gardner, a father who overcomes tremendous hardship to support his son.

Though “Web” and “Eragon” are ostensibly going for the same family aud, the pics are tracking quite differently.

Women over 25 — perhaps moms who grew up with the book or Par’s animated version from 1973 — seem to be one of this new version’s most eager demos. Neither teens nor auds under 25 seem as interested.

“Eragon,” based on the literary fantasy phenom, has teens pumped as well as males under and over 25.

Both pics have to contend with B.O. behemoth “Happy Feet.” Warners feels the CG-animated pic has the potential to play quite strongly through to January and pass $200 million on the way.

Specialty film sector, which has been having a tough time wooing auds away from more mainstream studio fare this season, will offer up a number of new awards hopefuls from well-regarded helmers.

Pics opening on five screens or fewer include Steven Soderbergh’s “The Good German” (Warners), Irwin Winkler’s “The Home of the Brave” (MGM) and Anthony Minghella’s “Breaking and Entering” (Weinstein Co.).

“Eragon” also will be looking to fire up an international profile as the film heads into a day-and-date release in 6,000-plus engagements.

Fox is launching the pic in nearly all foreign markets simultaneously, opening at 6,051 playdates in 76 countries, holding back only in France, Italy, Brazil and South Korea. Timing is aimed at capturing the family market as the holidays swing into high gear.

Major worldwide day-and-date release is the first since Fox launched “X-Men: The Last Stand” during the last weekend of May. That pic went on to gross $224 million overseas and $459 million worldwide.

Overseas, “Eragon” will face competition from “Casino Royale” and “Happy Feet,” which combined for $60 million in foreign markets last weekend.

Sony’s “Casino Royale,” which has cumed $258 million overseas and $390 million worldwide, opens this weekend in Brazil and Uruguay. It’s won four straight weekends and is still on 7,000 screens overseas, so it’s likely to overtake the worldwide record for a Bond pic soon, passing the $431 million take for “Die Another Day.”

BVI’s launching a major expansion this weekend on “Deja Vu,” going into France, Italy, Russia and the U.K. Denzel Washington thriller has taken in $12 million offshore and $65 million worldwide.

UIP’s also expanding “The Holiday” in Germany, South Korea and 16 other markets. It’s grossed $14 million from foreign markets — $8 million in the U.K. — and $29 million worldwide.

Other launches include local animated entry “Arthur and the Invisibles” in France; “Apocalypto” in Austria, Germany and Holland; “Flushed Away” in Brazil and Mexico; “Just My Luck” in Japan; and “Unaccompanied Minors” in Germany and Spain.

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)