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'300' tests staying power

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 15, 2007 | Publication: Variety | Author: Ian Mohr

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Film should soon reach $100 million

Just how much will "300" conquer this weekend?

After a surprising debut last frame, pic should have no problem sailing past the $100 million mark.

Expanding to 3,270, phenom has been picking up solid midweek biz after its first frame to raise cume to more than $85 million. Zack Snyder's f/x-heavy depiction of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae gutted more than $7.6 million at the B.O. on Monday alone.

Highest-grossing second weekend for an R-rated pic ever is $53 million for "The Passion of the Christ."

Sony supernatural thriller "Premonition," Universal's "Dead Silence" and Fox Searchlight comedy "I Think I Love My Wife" all have the unenviable task of battling the box office behemoth.

Second-weekend perf on "300" surely will sap ducats from any competish. However, when one movie is this hot, it tends to drag others behind it: Sellouts leave auds searching for other theaters to fill at the multiplex, and, industry pros say, a positive experience at the movies keeps the public coming back for more.

Last weekend "300" hit hard, but so did holdovers from Disney ("Wild Hogs," "Bridge to Terabithia") and others.

Even smaller pics were popping, albeit at more earthbound levels, including Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions' "Amazing Grace," U's "Breach" and Searchlight's Mira Nair pic "The Namesake," which averaged a whopping $41,425 per theater from six locations.

But the weekend potential for "300" is running high as rabid fans have already begun returning for repeat viewings. Curious auds outside the fanboy (and girl) demo should help the testosterone-drenched war pic cross over further.

Meanwhile, Sony will roll with "Premonition," starring Sandra Bullock as a woman who keeps reliving the day her husband dies. Pic hits 2,831 theaters and could find a female-skewing base thanks to Bullock.

Movie also an advantage as the only PG-13 pic in a frame with so many new R-rated rollouts.

Universal will try a woo the horror crowd with "Dead Silence," the low-budget creepfest from "Saw" helmer James Wan and Twisted Pictures, the production unit behind the "Saw" franchise.

For the comedy crowd uninterested in bulging muscles or scares, Chris Rock's second directorial effort, "I Think I Love My Wife," will roll out via Searchlight in 1,776 theaters.

Searchlight also heads into its second frame of the limited release "Namesake," which has proved fall isn't the only time to release an upscale indie project.

PG-13 pic -- about an Indian family caught between cultures -- marked the highest-ever per-theater average for a Nair project in its first frame, beating her indie breakout "Monsoon Wedding."

On the foreign front, "300" looks likely to be a contender for the top slot even though it's in only half a dozen markets. Actioner opened impressively last weekend with $6.5 million at 337 playdates in Greece and four Asian territories; new market this frame is South Korea, where it's far ahead in advance ticket sales and has a good chance at opening in first.

Warner Bros. Korea claims a 90% approval rating in advance screenings for regular viewers, and the film's Web site is also drawing a lot of visits, compared with an average release. Additionally, "300" doesn't have much competition in Korea, given that local title "Big Bang" isn't stirring up much advance word of mouth.

Pic goes into major expansion mode next weekend with launches in France, Spain, Italy, Mexico and the U.K.

Meanwhile, Fox's "Night at the Museum," which dominated foreign biz in January and February, opens in its last major market with a launch in Japan. Biz in that market is certain to be notable since "Museum" has been a success in every other territory; foreign grosses are about $285 million.

Three other holdovers -- each of which grossed more than $9 million last weekend -- will be significant players: Sony's "Ghost Rider," which has hit about $80 million overseas and moves into Italy and Sweden; Paramount's "Norbit," which opens in Holland and Spain; and Warner's "Music and Lyrics," which launches in France.

Other notable debuts include "Premonition" via a local distrib in the U.K., BVI's "Wild Hogs" in Russia and Thailand, Universal's "Hot Fuzz" in Australia and New Zealand and Warner's "Happy Feet" in Japan -- the final market for a family pic that's cumed $172 million outside the U.S.

(Dave McNary and Darcy Paquet contributed to this report.)


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