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‘Bruno’ faces ‘Ice Age’ at box office

'Beth Cooper' may get some love as well

Sacha Baron Cohen mockumentary “Bruno” is looking good as it gets ready to strut down the box office runway for Universal.

Weekend’s other wide entry is 20th Century Fox’s “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” which bows sans much buzz. Teen comedy, opening in 1,858 runs, is expected to do modest biz.

The R-rated “Bruno,” conversely, is one of the most talked-about pics of the season. But it still may not win the weekend, depending upon the strength of 20th Century Fox holdover “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”

U opens “Bruno” in 2,755 domestic theaters, nearly triple the number of opening locations for “Borat” in November 2006. At that time, Baron Cohen was largely unknown in the U.S., and 20th Century Fox used the smaller release plan to build word of mouth.

It worked: Pic’s domestic gross was $125.8 million.

The characters of gay fashionista Bruno and Kazakhstan TV reporter Borat were created by Baron Cohen for his TV program “Da Ali G Show.”

Produced and financed by Media Rights Capital, “Bruno” landed at Universal after the studio paid $42.5 million for distribution rights in the U.S. and Australia, the U.K., Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa, where the film opens day and date.

Domestically, tracking for “Bruno” shows the film drawing the most interest from males, followed by younger females.

In terms of geography, “Borat,” with its merciless pranks was weaker in more conservative markets, such as Atlanta; Dallas; Houston; Kansas City; Mo.; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; and Sacramento.

“Borat” debuted to $26.5 million from 837 locations. The following weekend, film expanded into a total of 2,566 runs and grossed $28.3 million.

Universal, as well as other box office observers, expect “Bruno” to open in the neighborhood of “Borat’s” bow.

“Bruno” is making a major play overseas and opened earlier this week to boffo numbers in Australia. Film grossed $1.4 million from 222 screens as it unspooled Wednesday, 61% ahead of “Borat’s” opening-day gross and the third best opening day ever for a comedy behind “Meet the Fockers” and “Sex and the City.”

“Borat” grossed a healthy $133.1 million at the international B.O., led by $46.1 million in the U.K, Baron Cohen’s homebase. Australia was the second highest grossing territory at $14.6 million, followed by Germany at $13.5 million.

Universal’s release slate is full with “Bruno” and Johnny Depp gangster movie “Public Enemies,” which heads into its second weekend. Michael Mann-directed film’s gross through Wednesday was $49.9 million.

Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” also remains a formidable box office force as it heads into its third weekend. Domestic cume through Wednesday was $310.4 million.

Overseas, “Ice Age 3” should see another strong weekend after opening to $151.7 million — the best number ever for an animated title — last weekend. Cume through Wednesday was roughly $200 million.

Among specialty players at the domestic B.O., Summit Entertainment’s “The Hurt Locker,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow, expands from nine to 59 theaters in its third weekend.

Bowing only in New York for its opening week, Magnolia’s gay-themed bromantic comedy “Humpday” will expand in future weeks.

Sony Pictures Classics documentary “Soul Power” goes out in six theaters in New York and L.A. Pic, acquired at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, is about the 1974 R&B concert held around the time of the “rumble in the jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

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