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The ‘Inside’ track

B.O. pits Lee versus 'Larry'

Can Spike Lee manhandle Larry the Cable Guy?

Most industryites expect Universal’s “Inside Man,” the first genre pic from Lee, to come in at a comfortable No. 1. But the former “Blue Collar Comedy” star has a devoted fan base that could factor into the weekend B.O., leaving many unsure what to expect.

U is hoping its crime thriller, which stars Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, will hit the high teens and possibly break $20 million.

Pic, which bows at 2,817 theaters, will undoubtedly draw the biggest opening ever for Lee, who only once has broken $10 million, with concert pic “The Original Kings of Comedy.” But it would have to do better than expected to break Washington’s record of $23.6 million for “John Q.”

U distrib topper Nikki Rocco said the pic is tracking primarily with over-25 auds and is doing well with both genders.

UIP is launching a surprisingly wide international day-and-date opening for “Inside Man” in 16 markets, including Brazil, Germany, Holland, Mexico and the U.K.

Lionsgate is hoping it has the Caucasian equivalent of Tyler Perry in Larry the Cable Guy, whose eponymous pic “Health Inspector” bows at 1,710 locations.

Comic has been promoting the film in standup performances for months. Tracking puts the pic in the high single digits, but interest has been growing, and if fans of his who typically don’t go to the movies show up, it could go well into the teens.

At the least, that could put it in competition with the second frame of “V for Vendetta,” which has been solidly performing at around $2 million per day during the week. WB can be happy if pic falls less than 50%, which would put it at around $13 million.

Political actioner launches overseas in Scandinavia, Portugal and South Africa after doing a moderate $8.4 million at 2,000 screens in 16 foreign markets last frame.

Other opener is videogame horror pic “Stay Alive,” which Disney is distributing for financiers Spyglass and End Game. Pic, which bows at 2,009 playdates, will likely do modest business below $10 million.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics bows 2005 Palme d’Or winner “L’enfant” (The Child) at seven theaters in Gotham and L.A.

“The Pink Panther,” which has won the past two weekends overseas, opens in Italy with its foreign cume at around $50 million.

Overall, it looks to be another light weekend, with Hollywood hoping to start reversing the B.O. downturn next weekend when “Ice Age: The Meltdown” bows.

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)