B.O. preview: 'Surfer' rides sequel wave

Clear sailing for superheroes; holdovers should outdo 'Drew'

Another weekend opening, another sequel. Warner Bros. Pictures' "Ocean's Thirteen" had its moment at the top of the heap last weekend, and this frame 20th Century Fox is sending out "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," which should cruise to boxoffice dominance.

Read "Fantastic Four" review

Warners' "Nancy Drew," a revival of the celebrated teen detective and the weekend's other new wide arrival, appears fated to find a place for itself in the middle of the pack.

Like "Thirteen," "Silver Surfer," from Fox and Marvel Enterprises, reunites the principals from the original film -- director Tim Story and actors Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon -- and introduces a new character, the legendary Silver Surfer, with movement by Doug Jones, voice by Laurence Fishburne and CG effects courtesy of Weta Digital. The introduction of the Silver Surfer could prove a big plus, rewarding fans for their loyalty to the franchise.

The original "Fantastic Four," which bowed in July 2005, attracted decidedly mixed reviews but proved to be a boxoffice force. Opening against the second weekend of "War of the Worlds," it captured the top spot with a $56.1 million first frame in 3,602 theaters, going on to a domestic gross of $154.7 million. Its PG follow-up, debuting in 3,957 theaters, isn't facing the same competition, and by playing to the young male crowd it should arrive in the $50 million range. (The suspense will be whether it registers above or below the first film's opening, in which case it could flirt with the $60 million mark.)

Holdovers "Thirteen" and "Knocked Up," which have held down the first and second spots in midweek business, should shift to the second and third positions, respectively, to make way for "Silver Surfer." "Ocean's Eleven" fell 42% in its second weekend in 2001, while "Ocean's Twelve" dropped 54% in 2004; "Thirteen" could fall between the two.

Meanwhile, "Nancy Drew," produced by the indefatigable Jerry Weintraub -- who also handled the producing reins on the "Ocean's" trifecta -- is aiming for tween girls and their moms. As a character, Nancy Drew has been around for decades: She first appeared as the central character of a long-running series of kids' books in 1930. Bonita Granville played her in four Warners movies in the late 1930s, and Pamela Sue Martin, pre-"Dynasty," played her in "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries" series on ABC in the late '70s.

The new PG movie, directed by Andrew Fleming ("The Craft"), stars Emma Roberts -- or, as the media insists on identifying her, "Emma Roberts, niece of Julia Roberts and daughter of Eric Roberts," as if she's in danger of forgetting her provenance. Actually, to her young fans, Roberts is better known as the star of the Nickelodeon series "Unfabulous." That should help the film, in which Nancy travels to Hollywood to unravel a mystery surrounding a dead movie star, to carve out a constituency. "Nancy Drew" could find itself doing business in the low-teen-millions range as it bows in 2,612 theaters.

It also could face some competition from Buena Vista Pictures' public sneak preview of Pixar's latest animated offering, "Ratatouille," which will play in about 800 theaters Saturday to stoke word-of-mouth for its official bow June 29.

Meanwhile, the Weinstein Co.'s Dimension label is giving a midrange release to "DOA: Dead or Alive" in 505 theaters. The femme-centric martial arts tale, rated PG-13, is directed by Corey Yeun ("The Transporter") and stars Natassia Malthe, Jaime Pressly, Holly Vallance and Sarah Carter.
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