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Films look for niche at box office

'Elizabeth,' 'Michael Clayton' open this weekend

Another crowded fall weekend will see four new titles, none of which have major B.O. potential, battling it out for the No. 1 spot.

“Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “Michael Clayton,” “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” and “We Own the Night” will all be released or expanded at 2,000-plus theaters and are expected to gross in the low- to mid-teens.

Studio sources uniformly agreed that the weekend looks like a toss-up, with any of the four debuts having the potential to break out.

The four bows are aiming at somewhat different auds, leading studios to hope they can co-exist peacefully.

Universal is releasing Working Title’s “Golden Age” at 2,001 theaters. Though it has thus far garnered mostly weak reviews, U is hoping star Cate Blanchett and marketing that has positioned it as a romantic thriller will draw a sizable adult female aud.

Original “Elizabeth” grossed more than $30 million domestically in 1998 despite never going into wide release.

WB’s “Michael Clayton” is going wide with very strong reviews and a boffo first week’s gross of more than $1 million at just 15 locations. George Clooney starrer, which has thus far drawn a diverse adult aud, is expanding to 2,511 locations.

“Why Did I Get Married?” is the fourth Tyler Perry film distribbed by Lionsgate and, as with his previous pics, should draw a mostly African-American aud as it opens at 2,011 locations. Multi-hyphenate’s previous pic, “Daddy’s Little Girls,” took in $16.9 million over its opening five-day weekend in February.

Sony’s crime drama “We Own the Night,” meanwhile, will hit 2,362 locations. Mark Wahlberg starrer will likely draw more of a male aud.

The Rock starrer “Game Plan” declined only 28% last weekend, to $16.6 million. It’s unlikely to be No. 1 for the third frame in a row, but a similarly slight drop could easily put it ahead of any of the openers that underperform a bit.

Yari Film Group is also opening basketball drama “The Final Season” at 1,011.

After four weeks in limited, Sony is significantly expanding Revolution’s Beatles musical “Across the Universe” from 364 to 954 theaters.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics opens Kenneth Branagh-helmed remake “Sleuth” at nine playdates in Gotham and L.A. MGM opens quirky Ryan Gosling starrer “Lars and the Real Girl” at seven. Magnolia’s doc “Terror Advocate” hits three theaters. Joy Division docu “Control” is being opened by the Weinstein Co. at a single play in New York.

On the foreign front, Disney’s “Ratatouille” should lead the pack for the second weekend in a row, thanks to a launch in the U.K. plus what should be strong holdover biz from its second German frame.

The Pixar toon copped the top slot last weekend, more than three months after its domestic release, and should dominate for several more frames with launches set next week for Italy and China.

“Ratatouille” became the 73rd pic to cross the $250 million mark in international box office grosses on Wednesday, even though the Mouse House held off on several key markets until the fall.

Universal’s “The Kingdom” should also see significant offshore biz as the actioner launches a major expansion into Germany, Holland, Japan, Scandinavia and the Middle East. The Jamie Foxx-Jennifer Garner starrer will be closely watched by rivals for its international playability since several titles set in the Middle East (“Rendition,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “In the Valley of Elah”) are headed for foreign multiplexes in coming months.

“The Kingdom” opened moderately last weekend in the U.K. and Australia with $4 million as of Wednesday.

U, which has been the most active studio in international markets since late summer, is also widening “Knocked Up” into Belgium and France. The raunchy comedy’s grabbed $56 million overseas so far — respectable, but hardly blockbuster — with $16 million from the U.K., $12 million from Australia and $9 million from Germany with launches still coming in Italy, Japan and South Korea.

“Resident Evil: Extinction” should scare up notable foreign biz with launches in Australia, Italy and the U.K. The horror three-quel, split between Sony and Summit overseas, has been a solid performer so far with $30 million internationally from 20 markets.

Paramount’s expanding “The Heartbreak Kid” into Spain, opening “The Nanny Diaries” in the U.K. and pushing “Stardust” into Brazil and Italy. Fox will launch domestic disappointment “The Seeker: Dark Is Rising” into its first foreign markets Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan.