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Numbers game at box office

'23,' '911' vie for top spot

Can “The Number 23” beat “Reno 911!: Miami” to emerge as No. 1 this weekend?

B.O. could be close for the two.

For New Line, the question is whether auds will turn out to see funnyman Jim Carrey in the psychological thriller “23.” Pic is tracking to hit up to $20 million, with keen interest from women under 25 and men over that age.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “Reno” seems to have dibs on the young male demo.

The studio has been on a roll with comedies lately: It still has a hit in “Night at the Museum,” and it opened “Epic Movie,” a slapsticky, poorly reviewed spoof, at No. 1 a few weekends ago.

“Reno,” the bigscreen adaptation of the Comedy Central skein, will pull into 2,703 precincts, while “23” shoots for 2,759 as the frame’s widest new rollouts.

Also bowing will be Warner Bros.’ inspirational heartland drama “The Astronaut Farmer,” which will open on 2,155. “Farmer,” starring Billy Bob Thornton as a rancher keen on launching himself into space via a self-built rocket, is rated PG, perhaps giving it some fuel with family auds.

“The Number 23” — in which Carrey stars as a man whose life is mysteriously overcome by a creepy novel — and “Cops” spoof “911” are both rated R.

Standing in the way of the newcomers will be “Ghost Rider,” the Nicolas Cage starrer that burned up the B.O. last frame. Even if the pic drops 55% from last weekend’s biz, it should still be in the hunt at the top of the charts.

Other holdovers with room to roam at the B.O. include Disney and Walden’s “Bridge to Terabithia,” DreamWorks’ “Norbit,” Warner Bros.’ “Music and Lyrics,” Universal’s “Breach” and Lionsgate’s “Daddy’s Little Girls.”

Oscarcast on Sunday could, of course, corral attention away from the bigscreens as movie fans tune in to the tube.

Opening as more-limited releases will be Lionsgate horror pic “The Abandoned,” Samuel Goldwyn and Roadside Attractions’ “Amazing Grace,” Picturehouse’s “Starter for 10,” the Yari Group’s “Gray Matters” and ThinkFilm’s “Glastonbury.”

On the foreign front, “Ghost Rider” looks likely to remain the leading film for a second straight weekend as it adds 1,000 playdates and expands into Austria, Belgium, France and Germany. Pic had cumed $21.5 million internationally and $78 million worldwide as of Wednesday.

Fox’s “Museum” should stay solid internationally after dominating the foreign box office for the past two months. With cumes of $256 million overseas and $239 million domestically, the laffer’s set to become the 46th pic to generate half a billion dollars in worldwide box office.

Universal’s Brit comedy spoof “Hot Fuzz” will continue to be a significant player in the U.K., where its first-week total has hit $15.5 million. And local French thriller “Taxi 4,” which ran up $14 million in its first week, should remain formidable on home turf in its second week.

Studios are also keeping Oscar contenders active. Paramount’s moving “Dreamgirls,” which has topped $21 million overseas, into Holland and South Korea; Fox is expanding “Notes on a Scandal” into Germany, Italy and Mexico and taking “The Last King of Scotland” into Spain; and Warner Bros. is widening “Letters From Iwo Jima” into Australia, France, Germany and the U.K.

“Letters” has performed best by far in Japan, with $42 million. Domestic gross is $12 million; Brazil, Italy and Spain combined for about $760,000 from 156 in openings last weekend.

“The Pursuit of Happyness,” with nearly $107 million overseas, and “Blood Diamond,” with $80 million outside the U.S., will remain players this weekend as they take advantage of respective Oscar noms for Will Smith and Leonard DiCaprio.

Other notable foreign market openings include “The Good Shepherd” in the U.K., “Music and Lyrics” in Italy, “The Number 23” in the U.K. and “Norbit” in Australia.

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)

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