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Box office gets bunny money

'Browns,' 'Drillbit' take Easter bow

Lionsgate’s “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns” will vie for the top spot in a close race at the weekend box office with holdover “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who,” which could hold well since most kiddies are out of school for Easter.

Perry, who has a strong track record at the B.O. and a hit sitcom on TBS, directed and appears in “Browns,” based on his play.

Pic, which toplines Angela Bassett, opens in roughly 2,006 theaters. Film marks Perry’s return to the bigscreen as the popular character Madea, matron of the fun-loving Brown clan.

Paramount has modest expectations for Judd Apatow-produced teen laffer “Drillbit Taylor,” which toplines Owen Wilson and opens in some 3,000 theaters. At the same time, the studio expects the PG-13-rated comedy, about three geeky teens who hire a solider of fortune, to have strong legs and appeal heavily to male tweens and teenagers.

The weekend’s other wide opener is New Regency’s PG-13 horror pic “Shutter,” which Fox is distributing in 2,750. A remake of the Thai film, “Shutter” was directed by Japanese horror helmer Masayuki Ochiai (“Infection”). Pic is set in Tokyo, where two American honeymooners notice frightening, ghostly images in their photographs.

Each in its own way, movies this weekend will look to capitalize on the Easter holiday; historically, Easter Sunday is never a big moviegoing day. Friday, however, helps to make up for this dip, with 75% of schools not in session.

Last year, Good Friday racked up $44.8 million, the third-best Friday of the year at the domestic box office. Saturday saw grosses of $45.3 million, while Sunday took a dramatic drop, posting grosses of $26.9 million.

“Meet the Browns” should see brisk business on Thursday and Friday because of the holiday, in addition to Saturday.

But if “Horton” enjoys a stronger-than-normal hold because kids are out of school, it could overtake it.

Last weekend, “Horton” opened at $45 million, the fifth best opening ever for a G-rated animated pic. Toon made another $3.6 million on Monday and $3.9 million on Tuesday for a cume of $52.5 million in its first five days.

“Meet the Browns” marks the sixth movie Perry has directed for Lionsgate. His first film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” became a sleeper hit, underscoring the B.O. power of African-American moviegoers. Pic opened to $21.9 million in February 2005 on its way to cuming $50.4 million domestically.

His second film, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion,” opened to $30 million in February 2006 on its way to racking up a domestic cume of $63.2 million.

Last year’s “Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girl,” in which the filmmaker didn’t star, did not fare as well, opening to $11.2 million in February and posting a domestic cume of $31.3 million.

“Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?” opened to $21.3 million in October on its way to cuming $55.2 million. Perry starred in that film, although not as the character Madea.

In “Meet the Browns,” Madea appears only in parts.

“Drillbit” was directed by Steven Brill (“Mr. Deeds”) and also stars Danny McBride, Leslie Mann and David Dorfman. Par said the film cost $30 million to produce. Studio is relying heavily on word of mouth to lure auds in the coming weeks and says it considers opening weekend almost a sneak.

On the specialty side, the Weinstein Co. and Fox Searchlight picked this frame to open 2006 Sundance acquisition “Under the Same Moon,” about a Mexican boy trying to cross the border and reunite with his mother, who is working illegally in the U.S.

“Under the Same Moon,” which is both in Spanish and English, opened Wednesday in 266 theaters in key arthouse markets and markets with predominately Hispanic auds.

Anchor Bay opens Zak Penn’s comedy “The Grand” in two theaters in New York and L.A. Film stars David Cross, Dennis Farina and Woody Harrelson.

Picturehouse will offer an official sneak of laffer “Run Fatboy Run,” directed by David Schwimmer. Pic is set to open March 28.

O’seas B.O.

On the foreign front, “10,000 B.C.” and “Horton Hears a Who” will face off for the international crown after the former won the previous frame with a solid $39.2 million.

The caveman epic will rely strictly on holdover biz as it’s already opened in every major market. The actioner will probably cross the $100 million mark in offshore cume this weekend.

“Horton,” which went day-and-date in 29 markets last weekend, expands into 20 territories including Australia and the U.K. Fox is hoping the animated tale, with over $20 million in foreign coin already, will show traction as spring vacations and positive word of mouth spread among the family demo.

Paramount’s also aiming at families during the frame via a major expansion of “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” which launches in 31 markets including Germany, Italy, Russia and the U.K. The fantasy’s cumed $13 million overseas so far, led by $4.4 million in South Korea.

Recent fantasy pics have shown excellent overseas traction, with “The Golden Compass” heading toward $280 million this weekend.

Par’s also going day-and-date this weekend with “Drillbit Taylor” in Australia, Mexico and New Zealand while Fox launches “Shutter” in Malaysia, New Zealand and Thailand.

Disney debuted “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” this week in China, its final foreign market as the Mouse House aims to push the foreign cume past $230 million. Other launches include “27 Dresses” in Italy and Russia, “Step Up 2 the Streets” in Australia and U.K., “Vantage Point” in France and “The Water Horse” in South Korea.

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