'17' primed for first-place finish

Efron starrer should outnumber rookies 'Crank,' 'Play' and second week of 'HMTM'

Two young-skewing wide openers and a critically driven political thriller will look to do solid boxoffice this weekend, which also marks the sophomore session for the tween-girls phenom "Hannah Montana: The Movie."

Warner Bros.' Zac Efron starrer "17 Again" should do more than $20 million, targeting teenage girls while also attracting more than a few twentysomething females and sizable date-night coin as well.

"We're going to do very well," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said. "It's tracking well, and we should have a nice weekend."

Efron built his film and small-screen celebrity with Disney's "High School Musical" franchise. So though "17" is sure to skew older than "HMTM," it will be interesting to see whether he woos a few fans away from the Disney pic.

Elsewhere among the wide openers, Lionsgate's R-rated action sequel "Crank: High Voltage" — in which Jason Statham reprises his role as a professional assassin who battles bad guys — targets teen and young-adult males.

Franchise-starter "Crank" opened to $10.5 million in September 2006 and rang up $27.8 million domestically and another $16.9 million overseas. It looks like "Voltage," a co- venture with Lakeshore Entertainment, should get into the double-digit millions this weekend without breaking a sweat.

Universal's political thriller "State of Play," Working Title's big-screen adaptation of a hugely successful British television series, is the weekend opener for older moviegoers. Although early reviews have been solid, prerelease interest appears a bit soft in tracking surveys.

Starring Russell Crowe as a reporter at a U.S. newspaper, "Play" was directed by Kevin Macdonald ("The Last King of Scotland") and co-stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren and Robin Wright Penn. A bow south of double-digit millions would represent a disappointment, with the studio hoping to ring up $10 million or more through Sunday.

So what to expect from "HMTM" this weekend? The Miley Cyrus starrer bowed with $32.2 million last weekend, well exceeding prerelease expectations, so its second frame is sure to be big.

"It was so unexpected, but it was fun," Disney distribution topper Chuck Viane said of the pic's outsized debut. "Our jaws were hanging down over the huge success of the film."

Still, tween movies tend to drop 60% or more in their sophomore frames, so a decline of that proportion would see "HMTM" register in the $13 million range or less.

Elsewhere among the holdovers, Universal's hot- rodding action sequel "Fast & Furious" should still have some fuel in its tank, with teen millions appearing possible during a third session for the Vin Diesel-Paul Walker starrer.(partialdiff)
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