‘Chuck’ fights ‘Extinction’ in theaters

Weekend box office offers wide selection

There’ll be plenty of box office action this weekend for younger moviegoers as Sony’s horror three-quel “Resident Evil: Extinction” battles it out with Lionsgate’s Dane Cook-Jessica Alba laffer “Good Luck Chuck.”

Also debuting is Morgan Creek-Universal’s Amanda Bynes starrer “Sydney White,” a modern-day retelling of Snow White set on a college campus. Comedy should draw younger girls, since it’s rated PG-13, while “Resident Evil: Extinction” and “Good Luck” are both rated R.

Distribs and exhibitors expect the trio of new players to help bump up theater traffic after two relatively slow frames. “Resident Evil: Extinction” unspools in 2,828 locations, “Good Luck” in 2,612 and “Sydney” in 2,102.

On the more serious side of the multiplex, Focus Features goes wide this weekend with David Cronenberg’s Russian mob drama “Eastern Promises,” starring Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts. Film, which debuted last weekend in four theaters, will play 1,404 locations.

Focus is looking to mimic the success New Line enjoyed with Cronenberg’s last film, “A History of Violence,” which went wide and grossed $8.1 million in its second frame, according to Rentrak.

Several high-profile pics are opening in limited runs, including Warner Bros.’ “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. Drama, directed by Andrew Dominik, opens in two locations each in New York and Los Angeles, one in Toronto and 10 in Austin, Texas, a test market for Westerns.

Sony Pictures Classics opens Robin Swicord’s “The Jane Austen Book Club,” whose cast includes Maria Bello, Emily Blunt and Kathy Baker, in 25 theaters in Gotham, L.A., Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area and Phoenix.

Paramount Pictures Vantage opens director Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild,” starring Emile Hirsh and based on the bestselling book by Jon Krakauer, in four theaters in Gotham and L.A. Penn wrote the adapted screenplay.

Expanding this weekend in their second frames are Julie Taymor’s dreamy romancer “Across the Universe,” which Sony/Revolution ups from 23 to 276 theaters, and Paul Haggis’ Tommy Lee Jones-Charlize Theron drama “In the Valley of Elah,” which Warner Independent Pictures ups from nine locations to 300.

Sony’s “Resident Evil: Extinction,” which returns Milla Jovovich to the bigscreen in the role of Alice, is drawing heavy interest among fanboys. Pic, based on the survival horror vidgame, is helmed by Russell Mulcahy.

Expectations are that the pic, penned by franchise scribe Paul W.S. Anderson, should be able to approach the $23 million opening weekend gross for the last installment, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” on its way to a domestic cume of $50.7 million. First pic, “Resident Evil,” grossed $40.1 million domestically.

But “Good Luck,” drawing upon the star power of Alba and Cook, is whipping up strong interest as well, although interest is more evenly divided among the genders. Although the movie is considered a strong draw for the younger set, some older filmgoers are expected to turn out as well. Another advantage: Comedy, in general, has been paying off at the box office this year.

“Good Luck,” directed by Mark Helfrich, is expected to easily outpace the opening gross for Cook’s last pic, “Employee of the Month,” which bowed to $11.4 million in October. “Employee” also starred Jessica Simpson.

“Sydney White,” directed by Joe Nussbaum, isn’t predicted to do double-digit biz. Bynes starrer “She’s the Man” opened to $10.7 million in March 2006. Actress most recently appeared in “Hairspray.”

On the foreign front, following a record-setting summer, overall biz should be typically mild for an early fall frame.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” will go for its fifth victory in six weekends with launches in Portugal and Serbia. The actioner’s shown solid legs in cuming $130 million overseas and has already outperformed “The Bourne Identity” and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

The thriller’s biggest competition will likely come from Sony’s expansion of domestic hit “Superbad” into Australia, Denmark, Italy and Sweden. “Superbad,” which opened respectably in the U.K. last weekend with $3.1 million, will test how much traction an R-rated comedy can garner in offshore markets without major stars.

The summer’s other raunchy hit, Universal’s “Knocked Up,” has seen solid rather than spectacular numbers with $49 million from 23 markets. Pic opens in Brazil, Finland and Turkey.

U’s also expanding its other two summer comedies — “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” goes into the U.K. and Poland after a moderate overseas run so far with $21 million in 25 markets; “Evan Almighty” opens in Australia, one of its final markets, after grossing $54 million in 38 markets.

“Resident Evil: Extinction” goes day-and-date in Mexico, Malaysia and Taiwan. Other launches include “Atonement” in Italy, “Disturbia” in Germany and Spain, “Hairspray” in Brazil, “Ratatouille” in South Africa and “Shoot ‘Em Up” in Germany and Mexico.

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