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Holiday contest at the box office

'Ice Age,' 'Enemies' light fuse on July 4th sparklers

Fox’s 3-D toon “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” and Universal’s Johnny Depp gangster pic “Public Enemies,” hope to light up the Fourth of July holiday frame. Both open in theaters Wednesday.

But with Paramount’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” showing no sign of slowing down, which film will put on the best fireworks display at the domestic B.O. is an open question.

“Ice Age 3,” the third installment in the blockbuster family franchise, has an advantage as part of a known brand. And the dinosaurs will be stomping all over the globe.

Domestically, “Ice Age 3” opens in 3,993 runs and then ups its count to 4,093 on Friday. Of those runs, 1,606 are 3-D, making the toon the widest 3-D release to date.

Overseas, “Ice Age 3” opens on 12,000 screens in 94 territories.

Directed by Michael Mann, “Public Enemies” opens in some 3,325 theaters domestically and in a handful of territories overseas, including the U.K., where the film had its world premiere.

No one is willing to call the Fourth of July race, with the “Transformers” sequel looking like a powerhouse. There’s also the issue of timing. July 4 falls on Saturday, which could dampen returns on what is generally the busiest moviegoing day of the week.

“Transformers 2” grossed $14.8 million more domestically and $14 million overseas Monday, bringing the domestic cume to $215 million in six days. Foreign cume is $204 million for a worldwide tally of $419 million.

“Ice Age 3” has the potential to become a global powerhouse considering that “Ice Age: The Meltdown” grossed a whopping $456.6 million internationally. That film’s domestic haul was $195.3 million for a worldwide total of $651.9 million.

“Ice Age 3” also should see a boost in grosses because of the added charge for 3-D tickets.

Disney-Pixar’s 3-D toon “Up,” released earlier in the summer and still playing strong, is the highest-grossing title of the year so far at the domestic box office, with a cume of $252.4 million through Monday.

Domestically, “Ice Age 3” could lose moviegoers to “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which is playing to a wide aud including younger kids. Hoping to break through the noise generated by “Revenge of the Fallen,” Fox held sneaks of “Ice Age 3” on Father’s Day (it’s unusual to sneak a franchise title).

The previous two “Ice Age” pics both opened in March, but summer is a much more crowded corridor. In 2007, Disney-Pixar’s early July opener “Ratatouille” posted an opening weekend gross of $47 million on its way to cuming $206.4 million.

Universal is taking the bigger gamble. “Public Enemies,” with Depp in the role of John Dillinger, cost $100 million to produce.

Mann’s films don’t generally score big openings, meaning “Public Enemies” will need strong legs. Pic is showing solid numbers in all demos, although teenage boys are showing the most interest. On the specialty side, IFC Films opens Nia Vardalos starrer “I Hate Valentine’s Day” in three runs.

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